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What Abortion Bans and Childcare Shortages Have in Common
Katherine Goldstein on the erosion of maternal choice
How are you all doing out there? Last week left me feeling utterly raw, like a little beef steak. Things are heating up over here. Metaphors are mixing. There are TONS of new readers here, and for that I’m so grateful. Hi. Touched Out drops in exactly three weeks?! I am… all over the place. And I have some work to share, both by me and others.
I spoke with poet and artist Kate Durbin about Touched Out for LA Review of Books. I hope the conversation will convince you to preorder my book if you haven’t already, because preorders are crucial to the success of every book and every author, and you can get swag if you order ahead!
I also have an essay up at’s incredible newsletter the braid:
My kids went back to school last week—one promptly got sick, was home for two days, then I got sick, bla bla bla. Whenever school starts I think about the utter farce that is the daily reality of parents during back-to-school season. We try to make it seem as though we aren’t falling apart, cobbling together work and care however we can. I think about the choices I do not have in these sorts of situations, and I think about the choices I do have, that others do not have.
I’ve been talking a lot about choice lately, because it’s a useful concept to unpack— one I find helps articulate how rape ideology, male entitlement, and the institution of motherhood are connected. The aim of each of these paradigms, after all, is to erode the choices women have available, so that their bodies can be put to work in service of male power. Aswrote this week, pro-life policies are rooted in a pro-rape mentality.
Today I want to highlight another voice on this subject— Katherine Goldstein, a journalist, speaker and fellow at The Better Life Lab at New America, who covers social and workplace issues facing moms and caregivers. In the essay below, Goldstein argues that abortion bans are also connected to childcare shortages, in that each of these policy attacks create “less choices, especially for mothers.”
I first found Katherine’s work after I read her work at Romper during the pandemic. Later, I interviewed her for an essay I wrote for Vox on mom bosses. Katherine told me then: “The baseline narrative about being a mother in America is that every individual mother is fundamentally flawed in some way and the way to get out of it is through life hacks and products.” You got this mama!
Katherine’s reporting on parental politics is cutting and incisive, but her work at The Double Shift Newsletter also consistently highlights meaningful advocacy work that is happening every day, and she’s just as invested in personal and local politics as she is in national issues, as you can see in the piece below.
Right now I’m sitting with two very different realities about the care movement. For my Better Life Lab at New America fellowship, I’m looking at the big picture of what progress has been made in getting all forms of care valued and what tactics are working in creating culture and policy change. Working on this report has allowed me to interview some of the most influential people in the space, like Ai-Jen Poo, the founder of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Joan Williams, who runs The Center for Work Life Law who’s been advancing mothers in the workplace since before I was born, and Anna Wadia, who’s in charge of The Care Fund that aims to invest $50 million in philanthropy dollars to support building care infrastructure.
Speaking to all three of them gave me a bird’s eye view that was so hopeful about how much progress has been made. Anna Wadia describes both culture shifts and collaboration she’s seeing. “There's really been a sea change in the alignment among groups working across the different pillars of the care agenda.... I've been in this field for decades now and had never seen this before. Starting with the pandemic, there’s also a sea change in the way policy makers and the media see care.” Talking to those three made me feel incredibly encouraged that this movement is gaining so much momentum, and maybe the arc of history bends toward care justice.
But then I’m faced with the reality of what’s going on in my home state of North Carolina. Flying down from the highs of talking to national leaders, the on-the-ground view here feels very bleak.
Through an undemocratic and unprecedented process, in May Republicans introduced and rammed through a 12-week abortion ban with no amendments . They allowed minimal time for public discussion. They are positioning it as “reasonable” and “moderate” but the fine-print regulations could mean most, if not all of the abortion clinics in the state will be forced to close, and three in-person visits with a 72 hour waiting period will make it extremely difficult for poor and rural women to get care. By design, it will make it very expensive and burdensome for people from states across the south with even stricter rules to travel to NC for an abortion, as they have been doing for the last year. They are also limiting the use of abortion pills without medical reason.
Abortion bans do not have anywhere close to majority public support in North Carolina. The reason the Republicans are doing this is because they got a traitorous formerly pro-choice Democrat to switch parties to give them a super majority to override the Democratic governor’s veto, which they did last night. The Republican-controlled State Supreme Court, days before they introduced the bill, gave legislators carte blanche to gerrymander the shit of the electoral map with no oversight. Because they can’t win at the ballot box with their ideas, they’ll win by pleasing their base and rigging the rest of the game.
One of the aspects of the abortion bill that boils my blood is that they’ve added some rounding error, pitiful funding for childcare, foster care and maternal health. How sweet of them! When you actually read the bill, it’s apparent it’s all superficial window dressing. Three million dollars for maternal health initiatives for marginalized groups? Small increases in foster parent payment rates? Fucking spare me that these minuscule gestures mean anything; none of it is more than lip service in support women’s health or families. What was NOT included in the bill was the meaningful funding NC childcare activists and business groups are lobbying for: $300 million in the state budget to merely stabilize (not improve) our childcare industry once federal American Rescue Plan money runs out. The entire state of North Carolina is considered a childcare desert, and if they don’t pass this $300 million item, the industry will go into freefall starting Jan 1st, with the expected outcome of some care providers reducing capacity or closing. Very few people in North Carolina understand what’s gonna happen if this funding doesn’t go through, and since budget negotiations have dragged into this summer, it’s still unclear if it will make it into the budget.
In parallel with attending childcare and pro-abortion rallies in Raleigh that are aimed at influencing the state legislature, I spent time this spring attempting to apply lessons I’m learning from reporting on the care movement to build political power around Durham Public Schools’ aftercare crisis. The summary is that getting a slot in DPS aftercare (all elementary schools end at 2:15pm... hours before the typical workday) is now as competitive as scoring Taylor Swift tickets. Durham has made national news for its aftercare woes, and the bureaucrats who run the program are showing no signs of having the skills or vision to fix the problem. In contrast to the state Republicans who are cutthroat machiavellians who will win by any means necessary, DPS is an infuriating mixture of progressive, unaccountable and incompetent. And yet the lived experience for families under both of these leadership structures reinforce the same realities; no meaningful support to make having and raising children compatible with earning a living. Less choices, especially for mothers. Few systems we can count on to actually help families thrive.
Working on this issue, it’s clear that creating accountability and change in the DPS aftercare program is a long game. School is about to start and the district hasn’t shared updated numbers of how many kids are still on the waitlists. Even change at the local level can take a lot of what most parents don’t have much of, which is time. But I’m not giving up on aftercare, just like I still called reps urging to vote against the abortion ban.I’d rather try than just accept the status quo.