It went down on the floor of the House of Representatives Sunday as our elected lawmakers, the progressive ones I mean, struggled to insure passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Perhaps the most heated moment came when Bart Stupak rejected last-minute GOP attempts to appropriate his anti-choice language for ultra-conservative ends. When Stupak sided for once with his own Party, someone from the GOP shouted out “baby killer.” Clearly the Republican Party and their Supreme Court minions have a contagious case of diarrhea of the mouth. But in this case, what bothers me is hypocritical posture of righteous indignation invoked by folks who insist upon throwing the proverbial “baby out with the bathwater,” and then acting as though the bathtub is the babykiller.
The infant mortality rate among African American infants is still more than double that of white infants, and nationally while Latino infant mortality rates are lower, in poorer states, Latino babies die across the board at a higher rate than their white counterparts. It is not a huge intellectual leap to surmise that lack of access to good prenatal care, nutritious food, and ready healthcare access, plays a huge role in the rates of infant mortality, and given the disproportionate number of poor Black and Brown people, these rates are not shocking. It is conservatives who are notorious for their vicious and malicious opposition to social welfare programs, which they insist are “hand-outs.” But in my humble opinion, those who legislate into existence a permanent underclass are the real “babykillers.” If I were a conspiracy theorist, I’d almost think our well-meaning conservative brethren were invested in perpetuating generational cycles of poverty among Black and Brown folks. Who else can care for their children, clean their office buildings and homes, prepare their food, staff their factories [other than exploited overseas workers], or shine their shoes? Again, those are the musings of a conspiracy theorist.
I am, however, convinced that the state is the absentee baby daddy of every poor Black and Brown girl who ever finds herself undereducated, without work or options, in search of love in all the wrong places, and eventually pregnant, then a mother often willingly, but just as often not, then left at the mercy of someone who calls her names, maligns her character, and refuses to support her or the children on the grounds that she’s a golddigger. I might be talking about any trifling unready father, or I might be talking about your friendly governmental welfare program, that creates the conditions of under-education and lack of opportunity that make premature motherhood a real possibility and sometimes an attractive option in a life searching for purpose. Whatever the case, it is because of these circumstances that I rejoice in this monumental step forward in increased healthcare access. Yes, women’s wombs have unfairly been cast as the battleground. Yes, our wombs are still in the vice grips of the state, but post -legislation, many more young Black and Brown moms will have access to the resources they need to give their children a fighting chance. And that is something to smile about.