2012-05-29 15:59:50

Must-read long read: Arizona’s pro-life paradox

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At The American Prospect, Judith Lewis Mernit has a long and very important article about the contradiction of restricting access to abortion while cutting funding for special needs children in Arizona. Arizona recently banned abortion after 18 weeks, which means there will be more babies born with chromosomal abnormalities – special needs kids. At the same time, Arizona is cutting funding for healthcare for special needs kids.

It would be logical to expect, then, that these new restrictions on abortion would be accompanied by increased public services for women and children—especially for children with developmental disabilities. The laws should also lead to stronger support for physically, intellectually, and developmentally disabled teenagers and adults—which is, after all, what the healthier and luckier of these babies grow up to be. You might expect the people passing these laws to rally behind the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which bars insurance companies from turning anyone away based on a pre-existing condition; after all, no condition is more pre-existing than one you’re born with. 

But nothing of the sort is happening. Instead, even as state legislators are finding new ways to interfere with a woman’s or couple’s decisions about baby-making, they are reducing the services upon which families depend. Arizona legislators have been particularly harsh. In 2009, Governor Brewer closed her state’s $1.6 billion budget gap partly by eliminating $155 million from the state’s Department of Economic Security—money that had gone toward early-education and therapy programs for the developmentally disabled. The following year, the legislature tried to ax the state’s $9 million Children’s Health Insurance Program for low-income families, KidsCare. In 2011, state Senator Andy Biggs, who in campaign literature advertises himself as a pro-life Republican, proposed eliminating Arizona’s Medicaid program, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, altogether. That would have saved the state $2 billion but cost it $7.5 billion in federal matching funds. 

“There have been a lot of impassioned speeches from my Republican colleagues about the significance of a child’s life regardless of their disability, and about the value of human life,” says Arizona House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, a Phoenix Democrat. “But when they do a budget, it doesn’t include the concern for human life they talk about all the time.”

It’s a long read, but well worth it. This is a complex issue, and Mernit’s explanation of how socioeconomics, politics, ability, reproductive rights and economics all combine is skillful. And while I’m grateful for the mainstream coverage we’ve seen of Arizona’s abortion restrictions, and of those in other states, this is a connection that doesn’t get made that often.

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