Workable family policies that help those in need is what we should be aiming for. CNS photo/Robert Duncan

Child care solutions vital in post-Roe era

By  Andrea Mrozek
  • July 21, 2022

For a nation seemingly set on making people have babies, we sure don’t want to invest in them.”

This kind of comment has been pervasive online since the fall of Roe, and most often refers to the lack of a comprehensive state child care.

The fears of women underlying this kind of remark are real. Pro-lifers have every reason to listen and to work towards better policy. Even in the United States, credible conservatives have been advancing new ideas for family policy. These will become all the more important post-Roe. To be against abortion, one must support babies and children and the families who take care of them.

Yet, it’s precisely because state-run child care doesn’t work that I seek out better options to truly support families, while simultaneously being against abortion.

Canada makes for an interesting case study. In Quebec we find Canada’s first provincial state daycare system, started in 1997 at five dollars a day. The cost has since nominally risen, but it remains Canada’s example of a government purportedly offering all parents highly-subsidized child care.

The main problem is that it’s not a system that works. Both a lack of access to child-care spaces and a lack of quality have been decried in publicly available research. The auditor general recently reported that 50,000 Quebec children are on child-care wait lists. One national reporter, John Ivison, writing recently about the advance of Canada’s national system, had this to say after his own experience in Quebec: “Sorry, Canada. You’re still unlikely to snag cheap child care, no matter governments’ promises.”  

Suffice to say that after 20 years, many child care wrinkles in Quebec persist.

One problem pro-lifers against state child care face is a lack of a simple talking point. It’s easy to shout “$10-a-day daycare” whether that ends up working as advertised or not. A system of effective, targeted subsidies for those in need alongside funding for families just doesn’t package as neatly, even if it ends up providing better child care.

Post-Roe, another concern is that the U.S. doesn’t invest in parental leave. Leave following the birth of a child is a different issue from child care, and also one where Canada provides an example, only this time a more positive one. Our paid leave, recently extended to 18 months at a lower payout rate, is enviable and sends the signal that time to care for a newborn is a necessity.

Even so, there are complexities to this file. For one, as beneficial as the long leave policy is, it’s not accessible to every mother. For example, a woman in private business cannot close her shop for a year or even a month. Then there’s the fact that for many mothers, 12 or even 18 months isn’t enough.

Some European countries provide up to three years leave, and this reflects the important idea that the first three years of a child’s life are critical. Then this reality bumps up against other realities. Asking businesses to hold a job for three years may not be feasible. Finally, as with all HR policies (think about corporate packages that include money for massage, counselling, and acupuncture), they are always intended to ensure profitability for the company.

So too with government leave. The ulterior motive is ensuring mothers return to work in a constrained time frame. Consider leave top-ups, often part of “golden handcuffs.” You get more money on leave, but it gets clawed back if you don’t return (and most likely after you’ve already spent it).

The view that state child care or family policies writ-large are a prerequisite to being anti-abortion avoids the complexity of these policy files. These views are, in some cases, simply a smokescreen for ardent support for abortion. Here in Canada, no abortion activist has raised even the remote possibility of less “demand” for abortion because of our generous family policies and a new federal daycare plan. Quebec — with its generous family policies — also reports Canada’s highest abortion rate.

For me, I’ll continue to advocate for workable family policies that help those in need. I’ll continue to support charities that do family support work where I can’t do it myself. Quietly, we can pray that even in the deep controversy of a post-Roe world, we can find workable solutions for both women and children, born and pre-born.

(Mrozek is a Senior Fellow at Cardus Family and has a statement for Canadian women to sign in support of the fall of Roe at www.prowomanprolife.org.)

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