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Memo 01.28.2022 10 minutes

After Roe

Young couple relaxing with their new born baby

Conservatives must pursue pro-family policies in a post-Roe environment.

Last weekend, thousands of pro-life Americans marched in Washington, D.C. for what may be the last time under Roe v. Wade. In the coming months, the Supreme Court is expected to decide Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health—a case regarding the constitutionality of a Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks—and both pundits and the public think overturning Roe is a likely outcome. While no one really knows what’s going to happen, let’s say Dobbs is upheld and Roe is overturned. What then?

The power to regulate abortion would go to the states, where Red states would restrict it and Blue states would become abortion havens—California has already promised to subsidize travel and lodging for out-of-state women seeking abortions, and New York is making similar noises. Twenty-one Red states already have laws or constitutional amendments on the books that would ban or limit abortion should Roe be overturned. Five more are likely to follow suit if it is.

The culmination of the conservative legal movement’s decades-long efforts and the innumerable prayers of people wanting to protect the most vulnerable should be cause for celebration. And Red states absolutely should eliminate abortion. But they shouldn’t stop there. If Roe is overturned, they should enact a series of holistically pro-life policies: child allowances, child and dependent care tax credits, easier and more generous adoption assistance programs, and the elimination of marriage penalties in welfare programs and the tax code.

According to one survey, 73 percent of women who got abortions did so because they couldn’t afford a child. Another found that “Lower-, working-, and middle-class households are at least twice as likely to cite affordability . . . as the reason they have had fewer children than they want.”

The most effective way to ease the burden on these families is with a child allowance—modeled after Senator Mitt Romney’s plan––that would issue monthly payments to families with children, below a certain income threshold. Starting four months before a child is born (which doubles as a sort of paid family leave program, benefitting both parents and children), the cash payments would continue until the child turns 18. There are no strings attached; parents could spend the money on anything from food to clothing to education. Depending on the size of the benefit, child allowances could significantly reduce child poverty. North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Idaho are currently the only Red states with child tax credits (which are similar to child allowances, but are typically administered just once a year). More states should follow suit with a monthly child allowance.

Some states may want more control over how the money is spent. A more targeted option is a child and dependent care tax credit (CDCTC), which would help working families pay for child care by covering a percentage of the costs. The federal CDCTC, for example, covers 35 percent of child care-related expenses for those with incomes below $15,000, with the percentage dropping as incomes rise. Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, and Kentucky already have a state CDCTC that pays parents a percentage of what they receive under the federal CDCTC. While some conservatives might be wary of the potential labor effects of a child allowance, this policy is both pro-family and pro-work.

Inevitably, there will be mothers who carry their babies to term but don’t want to, or can’t, raise them. Here, adoption should be made as seamless as possible. Eliminate the red tape. Increase the adoption assistance programs that subsidize the significant cost of adopting a child. (Texas, for example, offers a $1,200 reimbursement for adoption-related expenses but some estimates peg the total cost at around $60,000.) Red states need to send a clear signal that their support for adoption and helping families is real.

Marriage is also a key-component of a pro-family policy platform. Kids do better in married families by virtually every metric and they’re 75 percent less likely to grow up in poverty (compared to single-parent homes with the same education level). But marriage penalties still exist in welfare programs and the tax code, actively discouraging marriage. One study found that a marriage penalty of $1,000 in the federal Earned Income Tax Credit reduced the chances that a woman would marry by 10 percent. Even some Red states have marriage penalties in their state tax codes. These should be eliminated.

Will these policies cost money? Yes, undoubtedly. Unless they can be offset with cuts or consolidations elsewhere, they will require tax increases. But if you ask pro-lifers if they’d be willing to pay a little more for healthy babies and stronger families, I’d bet they’d do it in a heartbeat.

Republicans are often accused of not caring about life once it leaves the womb. These critics are wrong, of course, but if Roe is overturned, Red states will get the chance to put their money where their mouth is.

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