Pro-Life, Pro-Paid Family Leave

A Worthwhile Proposal 


John Stonestreet

Roberto Rivera

Recently, in the UK Guardian, a woman told of her decision to have an abortion, but this wasn’t one of those “My abortion was personally empowering” type of stories.  Hers was a real-life dilemma faced by too many women. Let me be clear: Her reasons in no way justify her decision to have an abortion, but pro-lifers should listen to her story carefully and take her circumstances seriously, if we hope to build a culture where abortion is not just illegal, but unthinkable.

Charlotte Sullivan was newly married and newly employed when she learned she was pregnant. As a new hire, she didn’t qualify for the six-week paid parental leave her employer offered. Her husband’s job also didn’t pay enough for both of them plus a new baby to live on during those six weeks.

So, they agonized for several weeks before ultimately deciding to abort the child. The inner conflict she experienced in making the choice, and continues to feel since, is palpable throughout the article.

Sullivan’s story isn’t unique. Though women have abortions for a variety of reasons, there’s no question that, in certain cases, financial pressures play a role for many.  We’ll have to take these pressures into account if we hope to build a culture of life.

Paid family leave is a good place to start.

According to current data about abortion, nearly half of women who have an abortion live below the federal poverty level. To put that in perspective, the federal poverty level for a family of two—say a husband and wife—is an income of $17,420 a year. In other words, many abortion-minded women feel they simply can’t afford to take unpaid time off from work.

This year, paid family leave has become a bit of a priority on various political agendas on both sides of the aisle.

During his State of the Union address last week, President Trump threw his support behind the “Advancing Support for Working Families Act,” which was introduced late last year by Arizona Democrat Senator Kyrsten Sinema and Louisiana Republican Senator Bill Cassidy. An exclusively Democratic proposal entitled the “Family Act” is also on the table.

Not surprisingly, there are differences between the two. The bipartisan bill favored by the President would allow couples, who become new parents by birth or adoption, to collect a portion of their future child tax credits early and receive a smaller credit for the next 10 to 15 years.

As the New York Times describes, parents would be “borrowing from themselves.” Assume a new parent withdrew $5,000 to cover her six-week leave. Over the next ten years, her child tax credit, which maxes out at $2,000 a year, could be reduced by $500 a year.  At the same time, this bill “would not guarantee that a person’s job is protected when taking the leave.”

The Democratic proposal would be funded by a payroll tax averaging about $120 per worker and would not affect the child tax credit. Unlike the Sinema-Cassidy proposal, it would protect the employee’s job.

Neither bill is likely to become law this year, but the issue is getting the national attention it needs to advance.

For years, the Church has taken the lead in the building a culture of life through pregnancy care centers, adoption agencies, and sound arguments. We should also back policies that will encourage women to choose life.

Abortion advocates often point to poor women having to choose between their livelihood and their pregnancy. It’s a red herring that distracts from the central question of whether or not abortion takes an innocent life. Still, we can only advance the cause of life by assisting women and families that face dire financial situations.

Kudos to the President and to those in Congress who are seeking a way forward for paid family leave. And special thanks to those organizations and activists who’ve championed this cause for so long. It’s a cause worthy of our support.


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