Low wages, underfunded public service and abortion bans are the real stories of this legislature
By Jim Smith,2023-01-30
The statue of Territorial Gov. Thomas Francis Meagher in front of the Montana Capitol in Helena (Photo by Darrell Ehrlick of the Daily Montanan).
There is more to the abortion bans being promoted by Republicans in Montana’s Legislature than simply a difference on moral or cultural grounds.
Republicans have pieced together an entire suite of policies aimed at one goal. That goal is to control and disempower workers by a broad assault on standards of living, access to public services, disenfranchisement at the polls, and limiting access to medical choices. A ban on personal reproductive choice is just one plank in this platform.
On the labor market front, policies that ensure weak labor standards, low minimum wages, anti-union positions, restrictions on paid leave, low unemployment insurance, and poor enforcement of job safety all merge to create job insecurity for working class families. Women who are poor and women of color already face high levels of inequities in pay and hiring. Eliminating or restricting the right of women to make decisions on when or whether to have children sets women back decades in the job market and has a damaging effect on the overall economy. Several bills being introduced in this session are directly anti-choice and will lead to more poverty and family crisis.
Underfunded and purposely dysfunctional public services further the stress on working families already living from paycheck to paycheck, and who are literally one short step away from poverty and homelessness. Day care is unaffordable, underfunded and/or non-existent, making the ability of families to have two working parents impossible. Without two incomes home ownership is impossible and even safe and reliable rental housing becomes problematic. Eldercare is also underfunded with facilities closing throughout Montana due to the impossibility of running a business that is being paid less than the cost of supplying services.
Mental health services, at all levels of need – youth, veterans, elderly – are underfunded and inadequate to the needs of Montana citizens. One of the latest proposals is to shut down some of these services and send patients with dementia back to their communities, which in almost all cases have no support services, facilities, or resources to handle this situation. Soon they will be back on the streets, expanding the homeless population in Montana.
Expansion of Medicaid is curtailed, and truly affordable health care is out of reach. Medicaid is a lifeline for the most economically vulnerable workers. Having good medical care, which is not cheap, leads to better health, better job performance and increased financial security for workers. But the Republicans oppose these as being “socialism” while offering no viable alternative, all the while working to eliminate the expansion of Medicaid that was implemented in response to the COVID crisis.
In the last few sessions, the Republican dominated Montana Legislature has failed to invest in essential public services and passed budget cuts that directly impact these services. We are now living with the negative consequences of these actions, with impacts on health care, education, housing, infrastructure, and many other areas of the economy. In other words, they have failed us in the past and are now trying a repeat performance of that failure.
How does pro-choice fit in as part of this assault on working class families? Abortion access is an economic factor, because denial of abortion access directly impacts family financial viability and outcomes. Abortion restrictions have a direct effect of prolonged negative financial duress, including being trapped in lower paying jobs. Abortion denial is overwhelmingly negative economically, mentally, and physically. Abortion denial will lead to further economic and financial disparity and the return to higher teen births, teen marriages, family failures, and all the other associated negative social consequences.
Isn’t it interesting that these bills keep being introduced by these male legislators, who will never have to make this truly personal decision? Why? Because, at the end of the day, it is really all about control and imposition of their patriarchal and authoritarian right-wing agenda on all Montana women.
They know better than you do. They’re men.
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