Babies, Republicans and illegal tax breaks...oh my!
Babies. They are tiny, helpless and quite defenseless and that’s right after they are born. Before then, however, they live in a protective bubble, floating about in a dreamy, warm bath inside their mother’s uterus. Sure, they are subject to the actions of their mothers which may affect their development and ultimately their lives. But before then, they enjoy more protection than they’ll ever get in their lives outside the womb, especially from Republicans and the religious, usually Christian, right. This has always struck me as a bit odd. Why do they focus so much on people who aren’t quite here yet and ignore the needs of those of us who are here and in desperate need of help?
I know a little bit about unborn babies. Yesterday was my first-ever baby shower. I’m seven months pregnant with my first child. I also happen to be a single mother. Until recently, I was unemployed. I consider myself lucky to be working, albeit part-time, and still able to collect partial unemployment benefits. I am happy to say I have caring friends and family who have rallied to support me now more than ever. I wish the same could be said for the conservative political establishment in this country.
First of all, I know what you might be thinking. What the hell was I thinking getting knocked up when I was out of work? Why didn’t I stay with the father of my child? Why should you foot the bill for my kid? I understand these questions. It wasn’t so long ago that I asked the same questions of women in my shoes. It was sure a lot easier to sit in judgment then when I had some sort of moral high ground to stand above them on. Then the floods came and swept my high ground away.
Without sharing every last detail of why and how I got pregnant, I will simply say that I had major contraceptive failures (yes, plural) with the wrong guy. After forcing ourselves to work on things for the sake of our future child together, he sort of ducked out of my life and I haven’t heard from him since. Rather than wait around hoping he’ll decide to be a father to our future daughter, I’ve moved on with my life for the sake of my own sanity. At this point in my pregnancy, I have bigger things to be concerned with like having this baby and tending to her needs. Some people, including those in the religious right, probably think I have no business becoming a mom, but what real choices do I have? If left up to them, very few if any at all.
As I write this, a state senator from my home state of Maryland is just one of many Republican members of Congress that is supporting absurd bills that would severely restrict or completely ban a woman’s right to an abortion. Even if she has a legal abortion, there are plans by some Congress members to investigate whether or not she was raped or made pregnant by incestuous relations. This is one that Senator Andy Harris, supports. The bill’s sponsors claim it’s to prevent women from writing off their abortions on her taxes (something I can’t think of anyone doing, but medical deductions are legal and I would never question this) and thereby benefitting from some kind of illicit tax break. They pretend that shaming a woman about her choice is not their goal. How would you like it if you were the target of one of these witch hunts?
The kind of women who are most often shamed and targeted for their family planning (or lack thereof) are women just like me. If we get pregnant outside of marriage or a stable relationship, we are judged for our lack of judgment or selfishness. If we have an abortion, we are judged for conveniently disposing of our unborn children due to selfishness or ignorance. We may receive applause from the religious right for leaving the abortion clinic and “choosing life” but that applause dies the day our children our born. If we don’t hand them over to “better parents,” we are once again labeled as selfish and “welfare queens.” All the support we received as pregnant women dries up along with most kinds of public assistance. In order to get any help, we have to tell the government who the daddy is so they can find him and make sure he pays his fair share. We must also find ways to work and raise our kids. If we don’t, our benefits are immediately revoked. We are damned either way. And we are alone.
Last week on ABC’s “The View,” former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee (R-Arkansas), a recent vocal critic of single motherhood (most-pointedly directed at Oscar-winner Natalie Portman’s unmarried pregnancy status), spoke about the topic. I would agree with him about the “fatherhood deficit” in this country. He said it added up to something like $300 billion dollars a year, a figure paid for by American taxpayers when fathers walk away from the financial responsibility of their children. I don’t know if that figure is correct, but taking food out of the mouths of these children and their mothers doesn’t solve the crisis, either. Sometimes, as moderator Whoopi Goldberg said, these women are better off without the men who made them mothers. Don’t try to tell that to a Republican or a religious fundamentalist, but they are hardly the only ones responsible for the dire financial situation many single mothers struggle to manage.
It was former President Bill Clinton who put the finishing touches on welfare reform. The goals, as they usually are, were noble. It started with finding ways to reduce welfare rolls while giving those on them, a majority consisting of single mothers and children, a way out of their poverty and the cycle that often last for generations. Instead, as the author of this article shows, for all of its lofty goals and high-mindedness, welfare reform has not only failed, but has left women stranded now more than ever before in low-level jobs where even tiny successes threaten to force them “further down the ladder” of success. For every potential gain, whether it is a small raise or promotion, they find their benefits reduced or removed and their chances for escaping the cycle of poverty diminished even further. It is a demoralizing road to go down and its one we must travel alone.
As I write this, I am breathing a sigh of relief that our government has, perhaps only temporarily, avoided a shutdown. I wasn’t sure if this would affect my unemployment benefits—money I can’t go without for even a few weeks lest I fall completely behind. Still, I marvel at the reasons a shutdown of the federal government was ever on the table. Mostly it was to cut off funding to places like Planned Parenthood, a non-profit organization that does exactly as the title implies: it helps women (and men) plan their parenting choices. Again, a soon-to-be single mother, I am furious that this organization, which has served me for many years in the form of cheap, decent healthcare including free condoms and low-cost birth control, was ever in anyone’s crosshairs. What else are you offering in its place, dear members of Congress? It sure isn’t Obamacare—you’ve made it clear that you don’t feel the poor deserve even half the healthcare you do that is paid for by taxpayer dollars and covers you for life.
Just ask Senator Andy Harris. On his first day in Congress this past year, he wasn’t concerned with saving anyone’s rights but his own. In an attempt to come off as a some sort of newbie Republican badass challenging the so-called “Obamacare” bill, he demanded to know where his healthcare coverage was. Apparently he was disappointed to hear that, not unlike many of the private working sector, there was a short waiting period before his coverage kicked in. Forget the fact that the man is a doctor and a millionaire. I guess he found out the hard way just how expensive it is to pay out-of-pocket for your own medical expenses. I didn’t hear him inquiring about anyone else and their ability to survive, even one month, without government-sponsored healthcare.
No, we don’t deserve your healthcare or your rights but our kids are good enough to fight your wars, serve your fries and burgers, and stay held down in the bully clutches of poverty. As long as we don’t try anything stupid, like trying get tax breaks on abortions. No, that would be very, very bad.