What ‘right to life’?
Since the 1980s and the rise of the so-called Moral Majority — a politically influential
group who married conservative Christians to the Republican Party — I’ve searched for
signs of Christian charity and empathy in conservative politics. Despite their very public
piety, I’ve seen little evidence of New Testament values in the policies and principles
supported by conservative Christians and their political allies.
After their enthusiastic embrace of Donald Trump, a thrice-married adulterer and grifter
who couldn’t correctly cite a passage from Corinthians, the religious right could hardly
sink lower — or so I believed. But they have no nadir, it seems. Now, they are going
after free school lunches.
The Republican Study Committee, of which three-quarters of House Republicans are
members, has released a budget that has among its priorities ending the Community
Eligibility Provision from the school lunch program. That provision allows all students in
low-income school districts to get a free breakfast and lunch, so that a few students
whose parents earn money above the poverty level may also get free meals.
House GOPers resent that, even though it hardly affects the federal budget. They want
students who are poor to be labeled, set apart from the kids whose parents can pay.
They want a stigma associated with the free meals. Never mind that it is much easier for
the schools to just give every child breakfast and lunch without trying to keep up with
lists and payments. And virtually none of the children in qualifying districts come from
Yet, many of the same GOPers have long touted their so-called Christian values. The
Republican Study Committee includes members such as U.S. Rep. Barry Moore of
Alabama, who once appeared on the Christian Broadcasting Network to claim that “the
Lord just directed our path” into politics. It includes men such as Paul Gosar of Arizona,
a Roman Catholic who has criticized Pope Francis for being too liberal. Member Andy
Ogles of Tennessee has tweeted, “We need God back in schools!”
These are the same politicians, of course, who were elected by touting a “pro-life”
agenda as they campaigned against reproductive rights. And they finally won when an
ultra-conservative court tossed out Roe v Wade. But they’ve done nothing to ensure
“life” among struggling infants or their mothers.
After Roe was abolished, a handful of conservative activists suggested that their
movement would turn to improving the lives of the poor children whose mothers would
now be forced to give birth. There is certainly much work to be done. Several GOP-
controlled state legislatures have refused to expand Medicaid, even though the federal
government would pick up most of the tab. Not only does that leave many among the
working poor without adequate health care, but it has also put a financial strain on rural
hospitals, several of which have been forced to shut down.
Maternal mortality rates in the United States are higher than in any other developed
nation and especially high among black women. According to the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, black women are three times more likely than white women to
die from pregnancy-related causes.
The shocking death last month of Tori Bowie, a gold-medal-winning Olympic athlete,
was a reminder of that. Bowie, 32, who was eight months pregnant, was found dead at
home of natural causes related to her pregnancy.
In several Southern states, from which some of the most conservative and most pious
Republicans hail, infant mortality is also high. Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, West
Virginia and Alabama are among the top ten states for infant deaths.
But the pious among House Republicans have been conspicuously silent on the subject
of maternal and infant mortality, “pro-lifers” though they claim to be. Instead, rightwing
politicians have pushed in the opposite direction — insisting on work requirements for
Medicaid recipients, for example. In several states, conservative politicians are also
pushing to loosen regulations on child labor — allowing employers to hire children as
young as 14 for hazardous jobs.
Perhaps I was wrong to believe right-wingers want to take the nation back to the 1950s.
It’s acutally the 1850s they have in mind.