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President Biden Has Signed into Law the Most Important Pro-Life Legislation in a Generation

  • John Quinn

That’s the good news. The bad news is that it expires in just one year unless it’s extended. So we’ve got work to do.

This monumental pro-life legislation is part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (“ARPA”), enacted by Democrats in the Congress over solid Republican opposition. Although it has been unfairly criticized as ‘anti-life’ by Republicans, it has an important provision that — if made permanent — will result in a significant reduction in the number of abortions, reduce the financial barriers to raising families, and improve the lives of children who would otherwise grow up in poverty. It will provide most families $3,600 per year, paid out monthly for each child under age five, and $3,000 a year per older child. As a family’s income rises above $100,000 the benefits phase out. Along with other provisions in ARPA this child benefit is expected, if made permanent, to reduce the nation’s poverty rate by more than a quarter and cut the child poverty rate by half. For example, in Michigan alone, the ARPA is expected to lift about 117,000 children out of poverty and provide help to another 249,000. It may have an even larger impact on the abortion rate than "Obamacare," which led to an unprecedented 28% decrease in the number of abortions during the Obama administration as many previously uninsured women finally got coverage for maternity care.

The importance of the child benefit is hard to overstate. U of M Professor Luke Shaefer describes it as “the most transformational thing” in the ARPA. According to Jason DePerle, who reports on poverty for the New York Times, “the child benefit has the makings of a policy revolution.”

Given the disastrous effects of poverty on the lives and prospects of many Americans, the poverty-reduction effects of the child benefit are enough to command the support of those of us who are pro-life for the whole life. But it is also expected to empower millions of pregnant women to choose life rather than ending the lives of their unborn children by abortion. The reasons for choosing abortion are multiple and complex. But for 73% of women who choose abortion a major reason is that they simply they cannot afford to have a baby, and 74% fear that, with another child, they would not be able to keep their jobs, continue their education or care for people who already depend on them. For those who fear that the demands of another child would make it impossible to work outside the home or continue their education, the child benefit helps them pay for high-quality childcare. Many others are able to stay home and care for their families while another adult in the household goes to work, thus making the option of preserving the life of their unborn child both feasible and attractive.

Of course, these results disappear if the child benefit expires in a year: no one is going to plan their life around an income boost that will last only one year. Those of us who are pro-life for the whole life need to get to work making sure that doesn’t happen. That means talking up the child benefit every chance we get and making sure our elected representatives know that we expect them to make it permanent. Here at Michigan Democrats for Life, making the child benefit permanent is going to be a major part of our work for the next year. We invite you to join us in that task.

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