Will pro-lifers push to expand the social safety net?

The most powerful and influential members of the anti-abortion movement are likely to keep their focus mainly on reducing the number of abortions, rather than advocating for more social spending to help women who cannot have them. They’ll work on strengthening abortion bans in red states, and on passing whatever restrictions they can in blue and purple ones. The social safety net “is a conversation for later,” Mallory Carroll, the vice president of communications at Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, told me. “Right now, we’re saving babies through gestational limits and strengthening the social resources that are out there.”

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Groups like these will continue pursuing assistance for women and families the way that they always have: through nonprofits and private aid. In anticipation of a world without Roe, SBA launched a network of services for pregnant women, which come mostly from churches and other religious organizations. This approach builds on a decades-long strategy: Since Roe was decided in 1973, abortion foes have invested millions of dollars in pregnancy-resource centers that offer counseling and supplies to pregnant women; a few of those centers now provide free medical care. Last year, when Texas made abortion illegal after six weeks, the state legislature sent $100 million to these centers. Republicans in Mississippi just passed a law giving $3.5 million in tax credits to pregnancy-resource centers.

One problem with such efforts is that they’re small ball. Some of what they offer is helpful to some pregnant women, on a short-term basis. (Abortion-rights advocates would argue that the more fundamental problem is that women who want abortions aren’t able to get them.) But overall, they aren’t enough to address the scale of economic pressure facing families. “If you really want to make a dent in terms of poverty, you need to take action at the federal and state levels,” Rank, the social scientist, said. Romney’s Family Security Act proposal shows promise, Rank noted, although many progressives disapprove because it hinges on work requirements and would exclude the country’s poorest families.

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