Tom Zirpoli: Proof is abundant: Democratic-led states have better health outcomes for children

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Listening to Republicans talk about being pro-life is a joke. Democrats have done more to promote the life, health, and well-being of our nation’s infants – both born and unborn – than Republicans ever have. The data is overwhelming that Republican policies, federal and state, have caused unnecessary death and poor outcomes for infants and children in Republican-led states.

Just look at state-by-state comparisons on any number of child-outcome measures. Children in Republican-led states have higher infant mortality rates, poorer health outcomes, and poorer educational opportunities than children living in states led by Democrats.

As outlined by Inae Oh, news editor for Mother Jones magazine, “The GOP has never been serious about” being pro-life in regards to our nation’s children. She points out that Republican-led states “with the harshest abortion restrictions have long had the worse rates of maternal and child health outcomes, such as infant birth weights and child poverty.” These same states, she points out, “have roundly and repeatedly rejected badly-needed Medicaid expansions that would vastly improve” the health care and well-being of their children, if that is even their goal.

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Oh also points out that these Republican-led states consistently refuse to raise their minimum wage so that families can provide for their children. They also consistently refuse family leave policies after the birth of a child that would allow moms and dads to care for their newborn infants. As it has been repeatedly pointed out, Republicans may be pro-birth, but they have never been pro-life when it comes to supporting children.

Republican-led states, writes Oh, refuse to “require insurance companies to cover birth control pills and expressly prohibit educators from teaching proper contraceptive use.” These two issues alone would significantly decrease unwanted pregnancy and abortions, if Republicans really were interested in doing something helpful for women and decreasing abortion rates.

IN 2021, according to the Children’s Defense Fund, five children die each day from abuse or neglect because the United States has one of the worst child care systems in the world. Mothers and fathers who have to work to survive are on their own in finding appropriate child care for all those babies Republicans want us to have. The country should have and could have universal child care, as they do in other developed nations, but Republicans block these initiatives, as they did when President Joe Biden proposed such measures, to take care of the babies they demand be born.

The Children’s Defense Fund, which is a child-advocacy nonprofit, found that nine children are killed each day in America by guns and another 46 are injured with a gun. Yet, Republican politicians refuse to work with Democrats towards reasonable gun control measures to reduce these deplorable numbers.

New York Times features writer Elizabeth Williamson looked at one Republican-led state, Texas, and found it to be “one of the most dangerous states in the nation to have a baby” with “one of the worst” maternal mortality rates in the country. Williamson noted that nearly 2,000 infants die in Texas each year, yet state legislatures do nothing to help. Texas also has the highest rate of uninsured women of childbearing age, yet Republicans refuse to accept expanded Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act, which would provide these women with coverage.

Health insurance is critical for the health and well-being of infants and young children. Yet, in our country, according to the Children’s Defense Fund, 678 babies were born last year without health insurance. We should and we could have universal health insurance for all newborns and children in America, as other developed nations provide. Yet, Republicans repeatedly and consistently block attempts by Democrats to provide health care for all of our infants and children.

In 2006, child welfare advocate Michael Petit wrote a book titled “Homeland Insecurity…American Children at Risk’ about this very issue. He found that “kids in red states were more likely to lack health insurance, live in poverty and die early.” Not much has changed for the “pro-life” party. Petit states that “political decisions made at the state level have the most impact.” Indeed. When Republican-led states have had the opportunity to improve the health care or child care for infants and children, they refuse.

While they pretend to care for the unborn, when our infants and children really need a hand, after they are born, Republicans are nowhere to be found.

I invite our readers to download the free 32nd edition of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s “Kids Count Data Book,” (https://assets.aecf.org/m/resourcedoc/aecf-2021kidscountdatabook-2021.pdf) which measures, state by state, the well-being of our nation’s children. It is no accident that Democratic-led states lead the nation in the overall well-being of infants and children, and that outcomes for infants and children are poorest in Republican-led states.

It has been this way for decades and will continue to be until voters wake up and understand who really cares about our nation’s children, not by their words, but by their deeds. And then vote accordingly.

Tom Zirpoli is a retired professor & the Laurence J. Adams Distinguished Chair in Special Education Emeritus at McDaniel College. He writes from Westminster. His column appears Wednesdays. Email him at tzirpoli@mcdaniel.edu.



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