During an illustrious career of showcasing half-baked Republican ideas, then-House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin dropped a doozy in December 2017.
“This is going to be the new economic challenge for America: people. Baby boomers are retiring,” Ryan explained of the nation’s looming labor shortage. “I did my part, but we need to have higher birth rates in this country,” he continued, alluding to the three children that his wife labored to bring into this world.
Ryan’s solution to an impending budget shortfall for critical safety net programs, such as Social Security and Medicare? Time to rev up the uterine conveyor belts. Nailed it!
Fast-forward a half-dozen years as another Republican scheme blankets the nation: overturning Roe v. Wade and outlawing standard reproductive care for pregnant Americans.
New polling shows that 34% of women between the ages of 18 and 39 say they or someone they know have opted to forego getting pregnant “due to concerns about managing pregnancy-related medical emergencies.”
The survey, conducted by Echelon Insights for the nonprofit All In Together, found that more than one-third of young people and 22% of young women say they or someone they know have “faced constraints when trying to manage a pregnancy-related emergency.” Additionally, 23% of 18- to 39-year-old women report either personally having trouble obtaining an abortion in their state or knowing someone who has. That’s almost triple the rate reported by respondents in other age groups.
One might logically conclude that disruption of services and resultant chilling effect on getting pregnant is disproportionately occurring in red states, where Republican lawmakers have pushed to enact highly restrictive anti-abortion policies following the fall of Roe. Not so, according to the Politico story, which was penned by Lauren Leader, co-founder and CEO of All In Together.
Perhaps most surprisingly however, these results are similar regardless of whether the respondents are living in states with abortion bans or states without restrictions on abortion access. The consistency between red and blue states suggests that the statistics on maternal mortality and the stories and struggles of women navigating the new normal on abortion access have penetrated the psyche of young people everywhere. The Dobbs decision, it seems, has fundamentally altered how people feel about having families and the calculus for getting pregnant.
In other words, Republicans’ anti-abortion zealotry appears to have cast a pall over the entire nation, decreasing the number of Americans who both want and are willing to risk getting pregnant and carrying to term in an environment where the phrase “the life of the mother” has become a political football.
Back in 2017, Ryan was right about America’s shrinking labor force. Between 2000 and 2021, the nation’s median age increased by roughly 3.4 years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. At the same time, the share of working-age people (15 to 64 years old) in the U.S. shrunk from a peak of 67.3% in 2006 and 2007, to 64.8% in 2022.
But rather than propose a policy like taxing billionaires to make up the impending revenue shortfall, Ryan offered a few words of encouragement to help jumpstart America’s baby-making. After all, he did his part!
Then the Republican Party proceeded to make the U.S. among the most inhospitable of developed nations for birthing children, particularly if one is interested in surviving—as if U.S. maternal mortality rates weren’t already abysmal, not to mention disproportionately shouldered by people of color.
It’s just one more Republican policy coming back to bite the country in the butt, all while ruining one of life’s most precious experiences: parenthood.
Kerry talks with Drew Linzer, director of the online polling company Civiqs. Drew tells us what the polls say about voters’ feelings toward President Joe Biden and Donald Trump, and what the results would be if the two men were to, say … run against each other for president in 2024. Oh yeah, Drew polled to find out who thinks Donald Trump is guilty of the crimes he’s been indicted for, and whether or not he should see the inside of a jail cell.