As I see it, a stark divide exists in the Republican party between the Christian right and the fiscal right. The former votes red because they think Jesus hates immigrants, gay people, and women; the latter votes red because they are wealthy, and voting red keeps them wealthy. These categories are not mutually exclusive, but they are an important distinction: Recent polls from Gallup found that at least 26% of Republicans identify as moderate or liberal socially, voting right for purely economic reasons.
In the decades post-Southern strategy, Republican legislators have learned that they can’t win elections solely by appealing to the pocketbooks of the rich (despite what you might guess from a night out at Princeton University, there simply aren’t that many rich people in this country); they must also appeal to the faith and the fears of the middle and working classes. So, they use social conservatism as a shield while they slash away at very government programs on which many of their own supporters depend, for food, education, healthcare, shelter, and survival. In other words, they loudly proclaim their Christian values but quietly prioritize their own bank balances. Yet surveys from the Pew Research Center found that, amongst Republicans, abortion is more unpopular than other social issues such as gay marriage and gun control. So why did the fiscal right join forces with the Christian right for a long-term siege on abortion, culminating with the fall of Roe v. Wade?
Regardless of the bullshit they spew on national television, most Republican legislators do not actually care about “protecting the lives of the unborn.” If one of their wives, daughters, or mistresses had an unwanted pregnancy, rest assured that they would shuttle her across state and national lines, if necessary, to ensure her access to the proper medical procedure. Hershell Walker, Scott Lloyd, Tim Murphy, and Elliot Broidy come to mind as Republican politicians who have done just that; I would name more, but I don’t want to run up my word count. Abortion, like tax evasion or drugs, will always be safe and legal for the wealthy.
Those most at risk from the fall of Roe vs. Wade are working class and poor women, who can’t afford to take off work and travel for the care they need. Like women of all class backgrounds, they, and only they, know best whether they are prepared — physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially — to care for a child. When they are forced to carry a pregnancy to term and give birth against their will, their children are disproportionately likely to live in poverty and experience all of the injustice and trauma (i.e., foster care, juvenile detention, shitty public schools) that come with it.
Left-wingers, like yours truly, often point out that “Republicans are not pro-life, only pro-birth.” Indeed, in the ideal Republican world, unprepared women are forced to raise unwanted children unsupported by the state. Sometimes, this is brought up as a sort of “gotcha,” as though the hypocrisy of Republicans being anti-choice and anti-public assistance is some sort of oversight or mistake. This is not the case. In fact, I believe this is the whole point of the fiscal right’s attack on Roe v. Wade. Here is what Republicans want: a generation raised by parents without the resources to provide for them, traumatized by foster care and juvenile detention, immobilized by lack of access to quality education. Children who grow up and adults who grew up in the most adverse conditions possible. They want this because the pain of the masses means the profit of the very few.
Of course, there are some who will succeed despite the odds, who will go on to brag that “I pulled myself up by my bootstraps, why can’t you?” Frankly, this doesn’t matter, because they will be in the minority. The Ballad Brief on “Intergenerational Poverty in the United States” found that only 16% of “persistently poor” children (i.e., those who lived more than half of their childhood in poverty) reach even working-class income by middle age. America has built a system of class inequality such that only the exceptionally gifted and lucky can escape poverty. Very few may claw their way up; the vast majority will be left behind. Moreover, even the most promising and intelligent children see their life outcomes limited by poverty. Studies from Michigan’s Panel Study of Income Dynamics link childhood poverty with decreased high school and university graduation rates, and increased mental and physical health risk.
There are three main possibilities for people who survive prolonged and extreme childhood poverty: first, taking a working-class job; second, enlisting in the military; and third, going to prison. Let me address these industries and their recent declines, one by one. Lately, there’s been a downtick in prison population nationally: according to the World Prison Board, America has gone from locking up 707 people per 100,000 in 2012 to 505 per 100,000 in 2020 (but don’t worry, we’re still ahead of, well, everybody on this one). Military enlistment is at an all-time low. One headline from NBC News announced that “Every branch of the military is struggling to make its 2022 recruiting goals.” And especially during and post-Covid, the economy floundered without employees willing to accept starvation wages for work in service industries—does the Great Resignation ring any bells? America’s straggling labor movement may be slowing down, but investors in the industries that reap profit from poor people, whether working for low wages, fighting overseas, or laboring unpaid in prison, have been given good reason to worry.
And who invests heavily in private business, private prisons, and the military industrial complex? That’s right: wealthy Republicans. Therefore, it is to the advantage of wealthy Republicans to create the most populous and disenfranchised underclass possible. By snipping the last few strands of America’s already-strained social safety net, Republicans ensure the suffering of any “precious child” they force a woman to deliver. As Wisconsin Republican Robin Vos put it, “Think how many Americans today would be alive in our workforce, doing all the things that helped make America great, if we hadn’t had such easy access to abortion!” Republicans want to exploit the reproductive labor of women so that they can exploit the physical labor of their offspring, 18 years down the line. The poor, unborn and living alike, are not “lives” to the fiscal right, so much as human fuel for a faltering capitalist machine. If that’s not unjust, if that’s not un-Christian, if that’s not obscene, I don’t know what is.