Can Elizabeth Warren’s child care proposal be considered pro-life?

Photo by Juliane Liebermann on Unsplash

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In February, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, a leading Democratic presidential aspirant, made a splash when she unveiled one of her many plans, this one on universal child care.

It may have gotten lost in the pileup of plans laid out subsequently by Warren and a raft of other presidential hopefuls. But the question is whether Warren's child care proposal has the secondary effect of being a pro-life plan.

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Not that Warren herself would call it pro-life; in May, she revealed another plan, about three-fourths as long as the child care plan, titled "Congressional Action to Protect Choice."

Still, the child care plan deserves scrutiny under a pro-life lens, especially given the reasons why women say they get abortions.

In a Guttmacher Institute survey conducted in 2004 -- the last time such a poll on this topic was conducted -- economic reasons are cited most often and are in the highest percentage of responses. Women were asked to name up to four reasons.

"Can't afford a baby now" was cited by 73 percent of the women. "Would interfere with job/employment/career," was mentioned by 38 percent. "Can't afford a baby and child care" -- a reason that wasn't even on Guttmacher's radar when it conducted the same kind of survey in 1987 -- was mentioned by 28 percent.

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It's not as if Congress has been paralyzed by inaction on child care like it has on so many other issues. Last year, it passed a $2.4 billion funding increase for the Child Care and Development Fund, which was signed into law by President Donald Trump. The total kitty got raised to $8.1 billion distributed to states to fund child care for low-income families. Even a decade of funding at that level represents a slender fraction of the estimated $687.5 billion federal outlay Warren envisions for her plan over 10 years.

What the federal government cannot or will not do, at least for now, states are interested in picking up some of the slack. Fifteen governors were elected last November on platforms that included improvements in early childhood development. Many of the successful governors pledged funding for universal or optional public pre-kindergarten programs for 4-year-olds as part of their campaign platforms.

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The issue resonates among voters. A 2018 poll conducted by GBA Strategies, a public opinion and strategic consulting firm, found 54 percent of parents called finding quality, affordable child care in their area either a "somewhat serious" or "very serious" problem, with the numbers spiking for parents of minor children of any age -- including 83 percent of parents of kids under age 5.

Moreover, 64 percent agreed with the statement that "we need to raise the bar on quality, safety and reliability at all child care centers" and "government has a critical role to play" on the issue, while 68 percent agreed that "our public policies should be designed to help families afford the costs of child care and early learning."

The plan would be paid for what Warren calls an "ultra-millionaire tax" on those with a net worth of at least $50 million that would generate an estimated $2.75 trillion over 10 years.

Which brings us back to the Warren plan, under which "the federal government will pick up a huge chunk of the cost of operating these new high-quality options," she says. "That allows local providers to provide access for free to any family that makes less than 200% of the federal poverty line. That means free coverage for millions of children."

For those with more income than that, child care costs would be "capped at no more than 7% of that family's income," Warren said. "That's a heck of a lot less than what most families are paying for high-quality child care now." She cited percentages of 9% to 36% of a family's total income as typical child care costs today for just one child, with the numbers going up for multiple children -- and the costs exacting a huge toll on single mothers.

"Nobody would be required to enroll in this new program," Warren said. "But right now, millions of families can't take advantage of child care because of its cost -- and millions more are draining their paychecks to cover high costs."

She touts it as "a win-win-win." "Parents get the security of knowing there are affordable and instructional child care options for their children. That gives them the freedom to choose the best work and child care situation for themselves," Warren said. "Kids get high-quality early learning opportunities that put them on track to fulfill their potential."

Meanwhile, "the economy gets a huge boost. More than a million child care workers will get higher wages and more money to spend. More parents can work more hours if they choose to, producing stronger economic growth," she added. "And a generation of kids will get the early instruction they need to be healthier and more productive members of society after high school and beyond."

The plan would be paid for what Warren calls an "ultra-millionaire tax" on those with a net worth of at least $50 million that would generate an estimated $2.75 trillion over 10 years.

Michael New, a visiting assistant professor of political science and social research in the Busch School of Business at The Catholic University of America in Washington, disputes the notion that Warren's plan would have a secondary pro-life effect.

New said he has not seen evidence that "any kind of provision of government benefits -- welfare, child care -- has any impact on the abortion rate," he told Catholic News Service Sept. 26, adding there's "no substantive body of research providing universal child care of any kind" makes a difference.

He said a study soon to be published indicates that stronger enforcement of child support laws brings down the abortion rate, but "it's only one study. It's not wise to invest a lot of credence in one study."

"We need a national conversation on how to help young families prosper, after children are born and before."

While "I don't deny there's an economic component" to Warren's plan, New added, "we just don't see the body of evidence."

"Sen. Elizabeth Warren is correct that there are too many barriers facing mothers and fathers pursuing work-life balance and the possibility of both a fulfilling career and a happy family life. Access to child care is a critical way to strengthen American communities, especially to give mothers' options when it comes to making life-affirming choices," said a Sept. 26 statement from Tom Shakely, chief engagement officer of Americans United for Life.

He added, "If Sen. Warren wants stronger American families, she might consider an end to taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood, America's deadliest nonprofit. Every taxpayer dollar that can be repurposed from Planned Parenthood to instead support the life and flourishing of young Americans would be an important step toward making the dreams of Americans for a better life a reality."

Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, did not mention Warren by name, although her own statement, issued Sept. 25, addressed Warren's plan.

"We need a national conversation on how to help young families prosper, after children are born and before. As an advocate for pregnant and parenting students, I invite politicians from every party to talk about how to help families prosper, and that includes families whose children are in the womb. Some ideas are going to be better than others, but it's striking how so many who argue for government programs for young children don't offer the same support to preborn children," Hawkins said.

"There's a cognitive dissonance among politicians who can't see the humanity of a child before birth. I would ask politicians who call themselves pro-child and pro-choice at what point do you offer an infant your support and protection?" she added. "Our policy needs to support and embrace children, born and preborn, and their parents at every stage of life."

Despite repeated attempts by CNS, Democrats for Life of America could not be reached for comment.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Fred Keyes
1 month 1 week ago

However unintended this initiative may be with respect to curtailing abortions, it certainly will have that effect. Democrats would certainly get a bit more positive attention from Democrats for Life if at the very least they went back to "safe, legal, and rare." In truth, "rare" may be the best we can hope for in a pluralist society.

Nora Bolcon
1 month 1 week ago

Well Duh! Yes taking away one of the largest reasons women abort will likely reduce aborting - Its Pure Genius!!

Lets see, we have only been telling that to people (and the church) since the 1980s when Biden stated he was against public funding of daycare because it is much better for the fabric of our families to imprison women financially by daycare costs so they can't work or continue their careers like he did. Oops! Mr. Biden forgot - prisoners get desperate, and do desperate things, like abort the reason(s) they could no longer afford to work or continue their careers.

I can tell you every woman I know who did have an abortion (and I only know a few), all of them did so because they felt they could not afford to raise the child with or without the father being in the picture and the decision was gut wrenching for them. Fear of poverty is perhaps the largest reason women abort anywhere in the world. It becomes the easiest excuse out there too: If I want my first child or two to have a decent life, I have no choice but to abort this unexpected pregnancy (this logic happens in married homes as much as single). If I want a chance at seeing my hard earned dreams come true, I can't afford to spend all my money on this unexpected pregnancy.

Take away that excuse, realistically, with quality full-time daycare, that is free, from 6 months old and on, and you will see far more women keep their unintended pregnancies. The largest reason for abortion is failed birth control and then it is the costs of raising a child. The largest of these cost is daycare. Don't get confused here - not part-time pre-K (that is not enough), women and parents need full-time, free (public paid), quality day care so parents can work.

I never would abort a child but I can tell you I wanted 3 children and the cost of daycare is the only reason we have just 2. In Massachusetts you get paid more but the daycare costs are thru the roof. When my kids were little we had to pay over $20,000 just for daycare coverage alone, for full-time coverage for 2 kids each year (that was 13 years ago and the same price of many college's tuitions! But no one saves ahead for daycare!) It took me and my husband, with decent, above average, paying jobs, up until last year (when my oldest turned 16 years old) to have finally finished paying off our daycare debt. The costs today are double that amount in Massachusetts, but I can assure you no one's salary I know has neared to doubled along with that cost.

So Mr New - I will thank you for the hilarity of your ridiculous comment. I think that just might earn the award of the dumbest thing said this year (and you were competing with Mr. Trump!) Another so called Pro-Life Conservative Catholic covering up his latent misogyny is I believe the depths from whence that statement came, Mr. New.

As for Ms. Hawkins' statement, " it's striking how so many who argue for government programs for young children don't offer the same support to preborn children," I believe that preborn care would be referred to as pre-natal care and Elizabeth Warren is all for better Pre-natal and Maternal Care. That does not include the right of the pre-born to rob the rights of the born citizens of this country, by demanding the right of pre-born to overtake the will of their mothers, and have them forced to use their organs against their wills to gestate their bodies. I might need a kidney to live but no one is fighting for me to have the right to take someone's healthy matching kidney against their will to donate it. I assume Ms. Hawkins is not seeking for educational funding for the pre-born - so what then is she seeking?

Letitia Roddy
1 month 1 week ago

"Still, the child care plan deserves scrutiny under a pro-life lens, especially given the reasons why women say they get abortions." What a patronizing and dismissive attitude, Mark Pattison, it sounds as if you don't even believe what women are saying about their own experience. Who else would know better why women are pushed into getting abortions, but the women themselves?

Terry McDermott
1 month 1 week ago

I Am an American

I am an American just like you,
You can call me baby blue.
Never allowed to carry the weight,
My life stolen in the starting gate.
The right to life the big lie,
All I ever did was die.
God is real, see the sigh,
Look closely at the tear in His eye.
Stop the abortion holocaust,
Before another child is lost.
End the current American civil war,
Americans killing Americans like never before.

Terry McDermott
1 month 1 week ago

Forever Young, Forever Dead
I could be you,
Forever dead, baby blue.
You will be forever young,
A song that was never sung.
The civil rights movement of today,
In your execution you had no say.
Two people enter the Planned Parenthood door,
One soon to be forever no more.
Forever damaged, the other one,
Having taken the life of a daughter or a son.
A nation divided over this holocaust,
Millions of children forever lost.
More groans and tears need be prayed,
As America continues to fade.

Terry McDermott
1 month 1 week ago

Through The Eyes of JESUS
I look down from above,
Through the eyes of eternal love.
My vision clouded with rivers of tears,
As I realize my worst of fears.
Children I created in their mother’s womb,
Now has become their earthly tomb.
I reflect back upon the cross,
All my pain, my Blood, and loss.
I knew then, what I see now,
As I wait for every knee to bow.
Even if their mother does not confess,
I will never love her more, or less.
Though America is in full retreat,
Her eyes and mine are about to meet.
From the clouds I’m about to rend,
I AM the Beginning and the End.
No more death and sorrow, you will not cry,
As I wipe away every tear from your eye.
Write this down, trustworthy and true
I’m about to forever end baby blue.
This is the vision of the eternal I AM,
Seen through the eyes of the Lamb.

Ellen B
1 month 1 week ago

Access to birth control helped reduce the number of abortions in this country while Obama was president. But Mr Shakley would make it a priority to shut down the providers of low cost birth control. Sounds like someone doesn't really care.

Michael Bindner
1 month 1 week ago

An ever increasing child tax credit and the use of birth control and abortion of girls who would chose the same are more likely a factor.

JOHN GRONDELSKI
1 month 1 week ago

Sounds like the "Catholic" Left is having another of its "how can I call a pro-abortion politician 'pro-life'?" moment, even as it waits for the Godot of a pro-life Democrat (now down to one in the House and facing possible primary extinction). Expect similar thought in the next year to try to blur pro-life clarity.

Michael Bindner
1 month 1 week ago

Clarity is likely on Oct 7 if the 5th Circuit's ruling on Louisiana's Trap laws are reversed per Curiam. Quit scamming for the GOP.

Ed Pezalla
1 month 1 week ago

Let's expand this discussion to include benefiting families and children as also being pro-life. Improving child care will help in lifting children and families out of poverty, as well as increasing incomes for child care providers (as already pointed out). Poverty reduction is clearly pro-people and pro-life.

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