For Republican Candidates, Talk About Moms and Babies Is a Thorny Issue

by | Nov 4, 2022 | Health

A month before Election Day, as Republicans in Congress dodged questions about a proposal to ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) tweeted that he wanted to talk about moms and babies.

Grassley, in the midst of what may be his closest race since becoming a senator in 1980, said he hears a lot about a lack of prenatal care in rural Iowa. He introduced his answer, called the Healthy Moms and Babies Act. “This bill will help fill those voids in rural America to make sure that we can deliver health care for high-risk pregnancies,” he said.

Republicans are favored to win the House of Representatives in the midterm elections, and they would need to gain only one seat to take the Senate, too. With polls showing abortion is a motivating issue for many voters, Republicans have purged their websites, softened hard-line stances, or just gone quiet on women’s health as Election Day approaches. Some deflect abortion questions by suggesting Democrats hold extreme views, an attack President Donald Trump helped popularize.

Women were falling through the cracks of the health care system well before the Supreme Court in June overturned a constitutional right to abortion. But state responses to that decision further splintered reproductive health care into sanctuaries and deserts, ensuring that access varies widely across state lines. And new government reports paint a troubling picture of maternal health, showing that the covid-19 pandemic contributed to a rise in deaths from pregnancy and childbirth complications — and that the overwhelming majority of recent deaths were preventable.

Democrats have made defending abortion access a central theme of their campaign to keep control of Congress, hoping to build on the surge of political engagement that followed the court’s decision. But polls show the economy has become voters’ biggest concern.

A few Republicans, like Grassley, are steering preelection conversations to their own proposals. But policy experts and women’s rights advocates say they do not go far enough to change the situation for women.

“To make a dent in the maternal health crisis, we need more than just guidance,” said Allison Orris, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a progressive think tank.

In Septemb …

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