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Republicans Claim to Love Both Mothers and Children. Their Policies Prove They Love Neither.

“Love Them Both” signs are displayed outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on June 27, 2022.

Photo: Stefani Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

Love them both.” The slogan started out as a marketing tactic.

Two decades after Roe v. Wade, anti-abortion strategists were frustrated. They were still “teaching” people “that this was a baby and telling how abortion killed the baby,” recalled Jack Willke, head of the National Right to Life Committee, 20 years later. But women had grown fond of determining their reproductive fates, and the dead fetus photos and tiny feet lapel pins were not convincing them that criminalizing abortion was a good idea.

How to counter “the new argument of women’s rights?” NRLC leaders asked themselves. “We had to convince the public that we were compassionate to women,” said Willke. “Accordingly, we test-marketed variations of this theme,” and “Love them both” was born. 

This month it grew plainer than ever that the slogan is still no more than slick, and empty, marketing.

What we’ve seen in the states, Congress, and the courts is that those who are stingiest in supporting the health and well-being of mothers and children also would force mothers to have and support children they cannot afford or do not want. The consequences range from hunger to death.

Recently, the governors of 15 states opted out of a new federal program that will provide grocery money to food-insecure families with children over the summer, when free school lunches aren’t available. The states are Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, and Wyoming.

Some of these states are not opposed in principle but are administratively unequipped, at least for now. Alaska is backlogged with food stamp applications but has a summer meals program in place and is open to taking the federal money next year. Vermont also has a summer lunch program and is “very committed” to launching the federal benefit in 2025 when it gets a user-friendly system up and running, according to a deputy commissioner.

Others offer no excuse. Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, for instance, complained that kids are already too fat. Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen, another Republican, stated simply: “I don’t believe in welfare.”

Of the 15 states, seven ban abortion entirely: Alabama, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Dakota, Oklahoma, and Texas. South Carolina’s ban starts at six weeks, Nebraska’s at 12, with limited exceptions. Bans enacted in four more states are held up in court. Among the 15, abortion is legal only in Alaska and Vermont. In fact, Vermont passed the first constitutional amendment protecting reproductive autonomy.

For the abortion-ban states, care for life apparently ends at 40 weeks. Mississippi has the highest child poverty rate in the country, followed closely by Louisiana; more than a quarter of the kids in both states are poor. (The two also hold the top spots for poverty among the elderly.) West Virginia, Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Tennessee — all no-abortion states — rank in the top 10 for child poverty.

Five of the states banning abortion lead in the percentage of residents without health insurance. Determined to deny food to poor families, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and Wyoming are also holding back on federally funded health care; they are among the 10 states that have not extended Medicaid eligibility. The top 10 states for maternal mortality all ban abortion.

In Congress, the same pattern applies. Bills intended to support mothers and children are sponsored by Democrats. If they come to the floor, Republicans vote against them.

This summer, Rep. Kathy Manning, D-N.C., introduced the Advancing Maternal Health Equity Under Medicaid Act, with 12 Democratic co-sponsors. Of the 99 sponsors of the Maternal Health for Veterans Act, two were Republicans. When the House voted in 2022 on the Right to Contraception Act, it got 220 yeas from Democrats and 8 from Republicans; 195 Rs voted nay.

Only Democrats sponsored the Child Labor Exploitation Accountability Act. At the same time, Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., introduced the Orwellian-titled Teenagers Earning Everyday Necessary Skills Act, to expand working hours for 14- to 16-year-olds. One of numerous bills in Congress and many more in state legislatures intended to loosen child labor laws, this proposal was co-sponsored by Republican Reps. Troy Nehls of Texas, Matt Rosendale of Montana, and Tracey Mann of Kansas — fervent pro-lifers all.

(To their credit, some members of the GOP got behind a resolution encouraging the prevention of sunburn in minors.)

Meanwhile, the purpose of H.R. 1955, introduced in 2023 and sponsored by Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., and four other Republicans, is to limit funding to Department of Health and Human Services’ Maternal and Child Health agency in fiscal year 2024. In 2019, Biggs introduced the Abortion Is Not Health Care bill.

In 2022, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act — “to eliminate discrimination and promote women’s health and economic security” by requiring workplace accommodations for employees “limited by pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition” — passed overwhelmingly in the House. The holdouts were all Republicans.

The next session, House Republicans sponsored a bill prohibiting the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act “from applying to abortion or the coverage of abortion or abortion-related services.” It was called the Love Them Both Act.

But perhaps the greatest displays of Republican love this month were witnessed in Texas and Idaho. There, in lawsuits involving the state government, federal judges ruled that emergency room doctors may refuse to terminate a pregnancy, in compliance with state law and in violation of a federal law requiring ERs to stabilize all patients who walk through their doors.

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the Idaho case — a nod, observers believe, in Idaho’s favor. In other words, the highest court in the land may soon rule that it is constitutional to let a woman die rather than give her an abortion.

Love them both, mother and child? No. “Pro-life” loves neither.



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