Though it’s been said before, it bears repeating that any law restricting abortion rights has the greatest impact on the poor. Texas women with financial resources will be able to travel to access legal abortion clinics. The poor will remain stuck in Texas where, because of a new law banning abortion as early as six weeks after conception, they will be forced to carry babies to full term, after which the state will provide minimal help ensuring the child is raised healthy and well-educated.
Texas offers mothers pitiful help for child care or pre-K education. Its health care coverage for kids is abysmal. Texas has a history of underfunding its public schools and on state social safety-net services for kids, it consistently ranks in the lower half, if not the lowest 10 states.
Such rankings matter because of the impact Texas’ new abortion law will have on poor women — especially women of color. Kids born into minority families have a higher likelihood of being raised at or near the poverty level. Black and Hispanic women accounted for 54% of all legal abortions nationwide, according to 2018 data gathered by the Kaiser Family Foundation. They accounted for 66% of all abortions in Texas.
For abortion-rights opponents to call themselves “pro-life” is disingenuous at best if they also fail to strongly advocate for expanded educational and social services. Conservative states in general tend to emphasize personal responsibility in child-rearing instead of providing state support for those who can’t afford the costs.
But now that the new abortion law is in effect, those very conservatives are forcing childbirth on women while turning a blind eye to what happens to the child after birth. If a woman knows she lacks the financial means to bring up a child, her best option is to wait until she actually is financially ready. Texas women no longer have that option.
If the state proposes to take away abortion rights and force parenthood on women when they’re not ready, then the state must assume responsibility for the child’s welfare.
The Texas record on that score is lousy. In 2017, Texas ranked worst in the nation for health care coverage for children, with 11% of kids going uninsured. In 2020 it ranked in the bottom seven states. It ranked 37th in overall economic well-being in 2020, the Annie E. Casey Foundation reported, and 34th in education funding, especially early-childhood education.
Even worse is that the Texas law would force childbirth even in cases of rape or incest, meaning that someone who had zero choice in becoming a parent now could face the prospect of nearly zero help from the state that forced this on her. As Missouri conservative politicians weigh whether to follow in Texas’ path, they owe the public a full explanation of how they plan to address a similarly large social welfare gap.
This editorial first appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.