Abortion trigger law will have unintended consequences

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Changes to legislation will almost always have consequences beyond those that were intended. The result of Texas laws banning abortion will be no different. It could lead to an influx of children with Down syndrome and other genetic conditions born during the next year. If the state’s goal is to encourage families to take on the extra demand of special needs parenting, several policy changes are needed to promote a supportive environment.  

First, we need to deepen our investment in our state-run early child intervention programs and provide mental health care for participating parents. Receiving an unexpected diagnosis during pregnancy or at the birth of a child is a shock even under the best of circumstances. Emotional support to process and grieve the loss of their imagined child is needed to ensure new parents can be present for their new child and the additional set of needs. Programs such as the perinatal psychiatry access program (PeriPan) built off the child psychiatry access program offer an initial skeleton for expanding supports. PeriPan includes several services to support the mental health of pregnant and postpartum women, and it would benefit from expanded services specifically for families receiving unexpected diagnoses about their child.  

Second, paid family leave policies should be thoughtfully considered at the state level. In the wake of the pandemic, women have shouldered much of the extra child care burden due to day care and school closures. Family leave policies have the potential to support all families, but they can be particularly helpful to families that endure a neonatal unit stay. For many individuals, the financial and time burden of traveling to and from the hospital prevents them from being able to fully participate in the process. This is damaging to caregivers and children alike. We must ensure our current policies are nimble to the array of birthing experiences, including a long-term stay in the hospital.   

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