THE FAMILY CAP IS A PROLIFE ISSUE
by John Cavanaugh-O'Keefe
The "family cap" is part of many welfare reform proposals. If it
is implemented, the family cap will kill children. It is the
beginning of forced abortion. It is based on deception and
manipulation. Prolifers should fight the family cap, no matter
what they think about other parts of welfare or welfare reform.
What is welfare all about?
There have always been some people who needed help to make it
through life. In fact, everyone needs help during some years of
life. But some need a little more help than others. In the
Bible, Moses commanded a particular care for widows, orphans and
strangers (or immigrants). When John the Baptist asked whether
Jesus was the one who was to come, Jesus responded by listing the
people whom he served: "The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are
cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and poor
hear the good news."
In western civilization, for centuries, churches cared for
the poor and needy. But in this century, there was a tremendous
change, and the government began to assume this responsibility.
The "welfare state" was born. Today, government provides food
stamps and other food assistance, housing assistance, medical
assistance, and cash.
Welfare has not worked well. Individuals on welfare often
feel degraded. Often, family life has been destroyed,
particularly among blacks. Often, children who grew up on welfare
remain dependent as adults. And so today there is a nationwide
determination to reform welfare.
What's welfare reform?
Welfare reform has two main goals.
The most obvious goal is putting people to work. When the
American welfare program began in the Depression under President
Roosevelt, it was for widows and their children. But over time,
it expanded, especially under President Johnson. Today, one
American in ten is receiving food stamps or some other form of
assistance. Recipients include millions of people who are able to
work. Obviously, work that provides enough income to be
independent is better than welfare.
The second goal is trying to rebuild family life. One of the
great catastrophes of the welfare state was a woman with a child
could often get more financial support from the government than
from a young and struggling husband. The way it worked out, there
was a financial penalty for marriage. This was particularly
devastating among blacks, whose family life had survived slavery,
Reconstruction, poverty, segregation, and the KKK but could not
stand up against welfare. Obviously, welfare should not damage
Of course, the desire to save tax dollars is another reason
Why is welfare reform a prolife issue?
The work of the prolife movement is protecting preborn
children from abortion. It has expanded to protect young children
from infanticide and the elderly and handicapped from euthanasia.
The movement has tried to understand some of the root causes of
abortion, and has fought to protect family life and to oppose
Planned Parenthood. But the movement has stayed focused, and has
resisted the temptation to try to fix everything. For one thing,
lethal assaults on preborn children in abortion clinics are 95
percent of the lethal violence in the nation, and protecting
babies from abortion is an immense task. The prolife movement
can't do everything, and shouldn't try.
But welfare reform is a prolife issue, because if it is done
wrong, it may kill thousands of babies. It wasn't obvious how
welfare would ruin families, and it isn't obvious how welfare
reform can kill babies. But welfare reform, badly done, will make
a bad situation even worse. The biggest problem is in the so-
called "family cap."
What is the family cap?
The family cap is a way to tell mothers who are on welfare
not to have any more children on welfare. If a child is conceived
and born on welfare, there will be no benefits for that child.
The "family cap" is supposed to send a message, that the
government will not continue to subsidize irresponsible behavior.
Having children costs money, and you shouldn't do it if you don't
have an income.
THE FAMILY CAP DOESN'T TELL WOMEN TO AVOID SEXUAL ACTIVITY,
IT TELLS THEM TO AVOID THE RESULT OF SEXUAL ACTIVITY -- BABIES.
If the family cap proposal becomes law and has the effect it is
intended to have, then there will be fewer births to mothers on
welfare. This is very different from other parts of welfare
reform, which are designed to encourage people to get jobs and
become independent. The family cap is not necessary to welfare
reform; welfare can be reformed without it. Not all welfare
reform proposals include this deadly and manipulative provision.
The problem is, there are three ways to avoid having a child.
There's abstinence: no sex, no pregnancy, and no baby. There's
contraception: fewer pregnancies (depending on how the method
works: most "contraceptives" actually cause early abortions) and
fewer babies. And there's abortion: no baby (or, more accurately,
no live baby outside the womb running up expenses). If the
government puts pressure on women not to have babies, which way
will they choose? Some mothers will just ignore the government,
and they will be poor. Some will abstain, some will contracept
(or try to contracept and actually abort), AND SOME WILL ABORT.
If the family cap is in a welfare proposal, that's an attack
on babies. It's a prolife issue.
The family cap will kill children. But there's more: it's
forced abortion. For several years, prolifers who have been
watching forced abortion programs in China and elsewhere have
predicted that it would come to America eventually. This is the
beginning in America.
When a new savagery begins in a society, it begins very
gradually, so that people have time to get used to it. To launch
a coercive program in the land of the free, you have to disguise
it. The disguise for the family cap is confusion about rewards
and punishments, carrots and sticks, incentives and disincentives.
If the government pays for a service, Americans may complain
about the cost but won't see payments as incompatible with the
American way of life. But if the government punishes someone for
what they have done, Americans want to understand very, very
clearly what the problem is. We don't scrutinize carrots the way
we scrutinize sticks. In general, we don't have a problem with
rewards, but punishments have to follow the law very exactly.
In the debate over the family cap, the difference between a
reward and a punishment is being blurred. Carrots and sticks have
been mixed. This confusion is basic to the public relations
effort to gain support for telling a woman what to do with her sex
The confusion the smoke and mirrors starts with
persuading people that welfare is a reward for having kids. If
people accept that idea, then the family cap isn't a stick; it's
just taking away a carrot.
It is dishonest to call welfare an incentive for having
babies. No one believes for a second that welfare was established
to reward women for having kids, to encourage mothers to have
larger families. It was set up to help people in trouble, to help
children and families. It's part of a safety net.
Is a lifeline a reward for drowning?
Is a fire department a carrot, urging people to be careless
Is a rescue squad an incentive to take poison?
THEN HOW CAN AID TO CHILDREN BE AN INCENTIVE TO HAVE KIDS?
The family cap proposal requires confusion about incentives
and disincentives, about carrots and sticks. The only way to hide
the coercive nature of the family cap is to persuade people that
welfare is a reward. Hey, if welfare is so great, would you like
to try it? And if you don't want to try it, don't let anyone
convince you it's a reward.
The truth is, welfare isn't a reward. So the family cap
isn't a limit on a reward, it's a limit on a family, limiting
family size by governmental decree. The family cap is a stick.
A mother on welfare who learns she is pregnant is not forced
to have an abortion. The decision about what to do is still hers.
But the family cap is a deliberate governmental policy that puts
pressure on her not to have that kid.
The family cap is not welfare reform, it is welfare abuse.
Welfare has two great threats. It creates dependency, and it
opens the door to manipulation.
Dependency is bad for the donors, who give and give, and then
are asked to give again. It is bad for the recipients, who lose
Once dependency is established, there is a worse danger
lurking: manipulation. The donor has the power to intrude
inappropriately in the recipient's life, and impose decisions on
the recipient. Very often, the donor may feel superior to the
recipient, and may see some ways that the welfare mom could
straighten out her life. But when the donor intrudes
inappropriately in this situation of inequality, this can be
bullying, or even an early form of slavery.
We have created a situation of dependence, and there is
growing national determination to reverse that. But in the midst
of the clamor for reform, there are also fierce calls to use the
dependence to manipulate, to move from the first great evil to the
second. Rather than back away from the evils created
accidentally, some people would like to embrace them and use them.
The family cap is manipulative. If the family cap becomes
law, then a woman who becomes dependent on the State is vulnerable
to government pressure concerning her decisions about whether and
when to bear children. The family cap is a deliberate
governmental effort to change her behavior in the bedroom. This
pressure to have fewer kids is not exerted on everyone; rather,
she becomes vulnerable to this pressure when she becomes dependent
on the State for food and shelter.
Before looking at whether the government is putting pressure
on her to do something good or something profoundly evil, we
should first understand clearly that the government if the
family cap becomes law is putting pressure on her, and is able
to do so because she is poor.
The family cap is not an effort to get her off welfare. It
is an effort to make her do something while she is on welfare.
The family cap is not an effort to end the great evil of
dependence; it is an effort to move on to the second great evil of
Success in most welfare reform is: people go to work and
become independent. Success in the family cap is: fewer births to
women on welfare. This is the goal of the eugenics movement, the
master race madness that drove Hitler: "More from the fit, less
from the unfit."
The family cap will kill children. And it's the beginning of
forced abortion, the first step toward a program like China's
savage population policy. Prolifers must oppose this grave evil.