Katie Britt Marks Mother’s Day With Bill That’ll Prey on Pregnant Women

Sen. Britt (R-Ala.) introduced the MOMS Act on Thursday which, among other things, would refer abortion seekers to a government-run, anti-abortion directory. 

Katie Britt Marks Mother’s Day With Bill That’ll Prey on Pregnant Women

Timed ahead of Mother’s Day this weekend, Sen. Katie Britt (R-Ala.)—the Republican who delivered a bizarre counter to Biden’s SOTU speech in March—introduced the More Opportunities for Moms to Succeed Act, or the “MOMS Act.” The bill would impose a range of disturbing anti-abortion measures, including requiring “fathers” to pay child support during a pregnancy, effectively recognizing embryos as children. It would also, most concerningly, create an online government database called “pregnancy.gov.”

This website would have people with unwanted pregnancies provide their name, zip code, and contact information and direct them to anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers near them. (CPCs are facilities that rarely provide actual health care and exist solely to convince someone seeking an abortion to remain pregnant, or delay them from getting an abortion as long as possible—all while luring abortion seekers onto their premises by pretending to offer abortions.) As Axios notes, the site would not allow resources for abortion clinics and it would also award grants to anti-abortion nonprofits.

In a statement rolling out the bill, Britt assured us it will promote a “comprehensive culture of life” as well as the “American Dream.” As for the text of her bill, it notes that, as you could’ve guessed, the government will store the personal data that users input at pregnancy.gov. In addition to their name and location, this website would direct users to “take an assessment through the website and provide consent to use the user’s contact information,” which the government may then “use to conduct outreach via phone or email to follow up with users on additional resources that would be helpful for the users to review.” 

CPCs, which work with and receive funding from some state governments, have increasingly become a surveillance apparatus for anti-abortion groups, as their websites collect extensive, personal data from people who are often seeking abortion care. This places abortion seekers at potential legal risk when abortion and pregnancy loss are increasingly resulting in criminal charges

In 2022, Iowa and other state legislatures introduced bills like Britts’—including Iowa’s “More Options for Maternal Support,” (which was also shortened to “MOMS”) to establish working relationships between anti-abortion state governments and CPCs, and connect abortion seekers to these anti-abortion groups. Now, Britt and her bill’s Republican co-sponsors are trying to wield this strategy on a federal level, which is pretty frightening—even as Senate Republicans don’t have the votes to advance the MOMS Act under a Democratic majority. It’s a reminder of the stakes, as Republican lawmakers continue to tease out support for national abortion bans, and now what could in many ways become a national tracking system of people with unplanned pregnancies looking for options.

During a key election year, this feature of the bill seemingly tries to address common criticisms of the anti-abortion movement for abandoning pregnant women when they become parents. But as the leader of a Mississippi abortion fund told a local outlet about a similar state bill in 2022, laws imposing child support payments don’t really help if the “father” of someone’s fetus is also poor: “Actual policy solutions would be a social safety net,” they said. “But when you say, ‘Oh, we’re just going to start child support while you’re pregnant.’ So if I procreate with someone who is low income, then I’m still poor.”

And then there’s the more implicitly dangerous feature of the bill: By requiring “fathers” to pay child support for embryos and fetuses, the MOMS Act functions as a backdoor for fetal personhood. That is, as we’ve already seen, if a fetus or embryo is a person, the government holds greater control over pregnant people’s reproduction and decision-making. Miscarriage, pregnancy loss, and pregnancy, in general, become subject to even greater state scrutiny and, sometimes, criminalization.

In 2022, Senate Republicans also introduced a bill to require child support payments for fetuses. Last year, Republican lawmakers in states including Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and Florida proposed tax credits for embryos, and earlier this year, anti-abortion lawmakers in Kansas and Kentucky rolled out similar bills. Pregnancy Justice called Kentucky’s bill “harmful” and said, “Expanding fetal personhood ultimately limits the rights of the pregnant person that the state pretends to protect.”

So, taken altogether, this is how Senate Republicans decided to honor Mother’s Day: by pushing forced motherhood, attempting to bolster the surveillance of pregnant people, and legally recognizing unborn embryos as people. Happy Mother’s Day!

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