Fox News personality and former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany interviewed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis this week, offering him an opportunity to look compassionate and humane—by Republican standards—on abortion. In a strenuous effort to make the case that “one thing that the pro-life movement is about is supporting vulnerable women,” McEnany asked DeSantis if he supported ideas like a bill from Sen. Marco Rubio entitling pregnant women to child support “from the moment of conception,” which would, she said, “force states to force men to give women what they’re due.” DeSantis was happy to take the half-baked prompt and run with it.
“These men, look, most of these women do not want to have abortions,” DeSantis responded, “but they feel like they have no other options, because they get no support, and that’s because a lot of these men are nowhere to be found. They should absolutely be providing support; they should absolutely be held accountable.”
In reality, 14% of women who have abortions are married and 31% are cohabiting, so that’s 45% for whom child support during pregnancy is essentially a nonissue. Yet they still get abortions, because there are a lot of reasons not to want to be pregnant or have another child. (More than half of women who have abortions have one or more children already.) And even if one imagines that child support during pregnancy would be the thing to change minds, less than half of custodial parents receive full child support, so there’s reason to think that this plan would fall well short if enacted.
Shockingly, neither DeSantis nor McEnany cared to take up the complications inherent in requiring child support from the moment of conception.
DeSantis went on to try to make the case that Florida is, in other ways, “supporting vulnerable women,” as McEnany had put it.
“What we’ve done in Florida is we’ve recognized that being pro-life means the whole kit and caboodle,” he said. “So we’ve expanded postpartum medical care for poor women to a full year after they have a child, we’ve also done things to advance options for foster care and adoption, because that is something that we want to be able to foster. I think a lot of it comes down to whether women think it’s financially feasible to do that, and when they don’t get support from the father, then it can be overwhelming.”
Expanding postpartum care to a full year is great. It’s also a federal Medicaid program that’s been adopted by 37 states—not some big, distinguishing move in Florida. Meanwhile, Florida doesn’t have paid family leave or even paid sick leave. It hasn’t expanded Medicaid beyond that postpartum expansion. Thanks to Florida voters, the state minimum wage is about to go to $12 an hour, but while that’s substantially better than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, it’s well short of the living wage in Florida for even a single adult with no children. It’s true that economic concerns are a common reason people seek abortion, but Florida is not exactly doing the utmost to alleviate those concerns.
Expanding options for foster care and adoption, DeSantis’ next brag, is … fine, depending on the details, but not an answer to the level of demand for abortion. Extremely few women choose to give newborns up for adoption: “In 2014, only 18,000 children under the age of 2 were placed with adoption agencies. By comparison, there are about 1 million abortions each year,” Olga Khazan wrote in The Atlantic in 2019. Pretending that adoption is a substitution for abortion rights is simply wrong, and it’s insulting, hand-waving away the reasons women choose abortion.
The way McEnany framed her question is important—clearly some Republicans are realizing that they need an abortion message other than “Democrats are the real extremists”—and DeSantis dutifully responded with the attempt to act like he cares what happens to pregnant women. But every one of his arguments showed how little he’s thought about reasons women seek abortion and how little respect he has for their decisions. In the end, he’s just a guy who signed a six-week abortion ban to bolster his chances in a Republican presidential primary but doesn’t want to talk about it too much, because he knows that looking like an extremist is bad for a general election.
It’s the Ukraine Update episode! Kerry interviews Markos to talk about what is happening in Ukraine, what needs to be done, and why the fate of Ukraine is tied to democracy’s fate in 2024.