Why adding family leave to an anti-abortion bill is bogus

Crossposted from DemocraticDiva.com

Charles Camosy
Photo: Catholic Star Herald

Anti-choicers are egregious in general but they are most frustrating to deal when they pretend to be seeking common ground while in reality pushing for the same bad forced birth policies under a thin veneer of caring about women. Some, like Democrats For Life and Secular Pro-Life, pretend to be liberal, all the better to lull reporters and the general public into believing that it’s possible to want to deny women basic bodily autonomy for non-reactionary ends (hint: it’s not). I honestly prefer Trent Franks sobbing about holocausts and the candor of the people in my Twitter feed screaming how I’m a murdering whore because I’ve had an abortion because at least they make it clear where they’re coming from.

A relentlessly self-promoting author and academic, Charles Camosy, “associate professor of Christian ethics at Fordham University and board member of Democrats for Life, author of Beyond the Abortion Wars: A Way Forward for a New Generation” has joined this dubious cohort. The title of his book (on several occasions Camosy has, annoyingly, shilled said book to me in response to specific questions I’ve asked him about policy positions he has stated publicly rather than simply answering them) seems to describe a worthy, and benign, goal.

Camosy provides an example of what he considers a “way forward” in a recent oped in the LA Times:

Perhaps it is not surprising, then, that the national advocacy group Democrats for Life has proposed a plan to pass the Pain-Capable Act rather than to merely exploit it politically. It is asking pro-lifers and moderate pro-choicers to protect and support both mother and child. In addition to a 20-week abortion ban, it supports an amendment to the legislation or a separate bill that would provide social support for women in the form of mandatory paid family leave.

This is the ultimate common-sense proposal. Based on U.N. data, the United States is the only industrialized country without some kind of paid family leave. According to both abortion foes and those who are pro-choice, it is one of only seven nations that permit abortion on demand beyond 20 weeks.

He characterizes this as a “Choose Both” approach that would be both popular and possibly lead Justice Anthony Kennedy, when the 20-week ban is inevitably challenged, to conclude that such a ban would not place an undue burden on women seeking abortions at that stage because they could look forward to several weeks of family leave.

Let’s leave aside the obvious challenges that such an arbitrary ban would pose to women whose pregnancies threaten their lives (the so-called “exceptions” even for that are unbelievably onerous in the 20-week ban before Congress), how stupidly difficult it would be for a rape victim to get her dispensation, and that there is no exception for fetal deformities, no matter how severe. Let’s further pretend that the anti-abortion movement would be satisfied with a 20 week ban and would not seize upon it to escalate attempts to ban abortion further and further back in pregnancy.

Let’s set all that aside and consider this 20-week ban in exchange for family leave as a legitimate proposal meant to address the concerns of women who delay the procedure that long for purely economic reasons. One major problem with it is that such women want an abortion, not to have a baby, and would have gotten the procedure earlier had they had the means to do so and hadn’t faced barriers low-income women commonly face, such as no insurance or Medicaid coverage for the procedures plus various waiting periods and unnecessary requirements imposed upon them by anti-choice laws.

If a woman can’t afford an early abortion easily I’m not sure how Camosy and his pals figure she can afford a baby (under their assumption that all women really, really want to have the baby any time they become pregnant) even with paid parental leave post-birth. And do they really think that low-wage employers like Walmart and McDonalds are not going to find ways to exempt themselves from having to provide this benefit to their employees? As good a thing as parental leave is, the unfortunate thing is that the people most likely to benefit from it are in higher wage and prestige jobs, not women who struggle to support themselves and their families in a string of crappy, transient jobs. Basically, the availability of parental leave is unlikely to influence anyone’s decision to continue a pregnancy, least of all a poor woman’s.

This “Choose Both” proposal has a next-to-nothing-chance of being adopted in Congress prior to the October deadline for the government shutdown, as Charles Camosy himself admits. Dangling parental leave as a way to ameliorate abortion bans may make his brand of anti-choice advocacy appear to be compassionate, but it will never make it so.

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