What Abortion Bans and Childcare Shortages Have in Common

Different details, the same lived reality of little meaningful support for having and raising children.

What Abortion Bans and Childcare Shortages Have in Common
Photo by Gayatri Malhotra / Unsplash

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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, 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 it’s unclear if it will make it into the budget.

Asher's first protest. 

In parallel with attending childcare and pro-abortion rallies in Raleigh that are aimed at influencing the state legislature, I am 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.

So this week I made many calls to state house reps AND I’m asking people to sign my petition (feel free to sign it even if you aren’t a DPS parent!) for accountability and change in the aftercare program. Maybe none of it will make any difference at all but I’d rather try than just accept the status quo.

When I talk to national care leaders it’s heartening to feel like we are marching towards progress. But some days it feels like we are slipping into quicksand.

Members-only thread: We aren’t going to bubble bath and essential oil our way out of all the systemic failures we face as humans, mothers, and caregivers, but what are the things you do in your life to restore you to fight another day? Members, check your inboxes tomorrow for that conversation. Members get weekly threads and audio newsletters, plus virtual and IRL hangouts. Join us! It starts at $7/mo.

Related to this newsletter and my members-only prompt, I’ve finally dug into Dr. Pooja Lakshmin’s wonderful book, Real Self Care: A Transformative Program for Redefining Wellness (Crystals, Cleanses, and Bubble Baths Not Included) which uses a psychological frame to unpack how systems, not personal failings make it so difficult to thrive. Back in the Before Times when I did some events called The F*ck Mom Guilt World Tour, I semi-joked that the best way to practice self-care is to get angry and then do something about it. But this book actually provides concrete guidance to do a version of just that! It’s very Double Shifty, check it out.

This newsletter was supported in part by The Better Life Lab at New America.

June 6th 3pm EST Member Hangout

W/ Author Abby Davisson

Save the date! Double Shift member Abby Davisson will be leading us in discussion and a lil workshop in decision-making framework at June's members-only hangout! Abby is passionate about helping people make more intentional decisions. She's an author, social innovation leader, and career development expert; most recently, she served as President of the Gap Foundation and co-founded Gap Inc.'s employee resource group for parents. Along with labor economist Myra Strober, she wrote Money & Love: An Intelligent Roadmap for Life's Biggest Decisions. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and two sons. We'll also be giving away a copy of her book! Members will get a separate email and calendar invite to their inboxes. Don't miss out on the fun!


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