The XX Factor

Half of American Births Are Covered by Medicaid. Conservatives Blame the Mothers.

Sorry, baby, but your mom doesn’t seem married enough for health care.

Photo by Philip Lange/Shutterstock

A new study out of George Washington University School of Public Health finds that the number of births in the U.S. covered by Medicaid has risen again, from 40 percent of births in 2008 to 48 percent—nearly half of all births—in 2010. This is an alarming statistic, because it drives home how much ordinary Americans lack access to jobs and health insurance, and how women of reproductive age, particularly those in their 20s, are hard hit by an economy in which it is increasingly difficult to pull oneself out of poverty.

It also serves as a reminder of the high social cost of creating obstacles to affordable contraception access, which leads to a rapidly escalating unintended pregnancy rate for lower-income women. While it’s a good thing for mothers and babies that Medicaid help is available and, under Obamacare, will be even easier to get (at least as long as Democrats run your state), we should still be very concerned about how this statistic shows that the system is failing working-class Americans who want to build a better life for themselves and their children. 

Or we could just panic and paint women who use Medicaid assistance as wanton harlots in need of punishment for their sexy misdeeds. While the conservative response to these statistics is still in nascent form—not quite polished enough yet to be thrown on a teleprompter in front of Bill O’Reilly—anger at poor women for having babies is beginning to bubble up on the right.

Catholic Online, a presumably stalwart anti-contraception publication, ran a fairly straightforward piece on the data, but it gave the piece the headline “MEDICAID: How YOU are paying for all these births in the U.S.” Loaves and fishes is one thing, but making sure that babies are born alive and healthy is just a step too far, apparently. 

Katie Pavlich, writing for Townhall, starts with the assumption that these births are “out-of-wedlock,” with fornicators “busting state budgets all over the country” while creating a “vicious cycle of poverty and despair.” 

But what can be done? A brave op-ed columnist from the Springfield (Mo.) News Leader, John Lilly, is willing to come right and say it

Pregnancy is a medical condition, but it’s different from high blood pressure and diabetes since it is a condition that is dependent on a conscious decision the vast majority of the time.

Should the taxpayer be forced to pay for the consequences of another’s decision? Would you go door to door asking for money for your pregnancy? Maybe we could start by limiting the number of births paid for by Medicaid to one as a transition to none.

Technically speaking, diet and exercise choices do have an impact on high blood pressure and diabetes, but let’s not let the facts get in the way of a man’s full-blown rage over other people having sex without his permission. Clearly, we have a man of courage and conviction who is willing to say outright what other publications merely leave to the raving commenters: If women are forced to give birth in a ditch a little more often, they might think twice next time they let a bottle of wine and a Miguel record tempt them to take their underwear off. I eagerly look forward to whatever euphemistic language the hard-working writers at Fox News come up with to convey the same idea.