Abortion in Louisiana will be automatically outlawed if, as is widely expected, the U.S. Supreme Court overturns its landmark Roe v. Wade decision next month. The Illuminator’s Julie O’Donoghue looks at the potential implications for state safety-net programs, which are likely to face higher demand if women with unwanted pregnancies carry them to term instead of seeking abortions. While Gov. John Bel Edwards expressed support for spending money on resources for pregnant women and children, legislative leaders haven‘t given the matter much thought:
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Bodi White, R-Baton Rouge, said he hadn’t considered whether services for women and children should receive more money because of a possible abortion ban, though he is expected to unveil the Senate leadership’s budget proposal Friday. House Appropriations Chairman Committee Jerome Zeringue, R-Houma, who controls the budget process in the House, said money could be moved around if necessary, after the U.S. Supreme Court decision is finalized that could allow Louisiana’s abortion ban to take effect. The Legislature’s most powerful lawmaker, Senate President Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, said he wasn’t willing to shift funding into programs for maternal health or children based on a Supreme Court ruling that hasn’t been issued yet.
One reason people seek abortions is because of the high costs associated with having children. The state could mitigate this by creating a paid leave program that allows parents to take time away from their jobs without sacrificing their full paycheck. LBP’s deputy executive director, Stacey Roussel, laid out how such a program would work in this 2019 policy brief.
Road Home redux
Louisiana’s Road Home program funneled billions of federal dollars to people whose homes were damaged by Hurricane Katrina’s winds and flooding. People used the grants to rebuild their homes and elevate them to reduce the risk of future flood damage. But some recipients used their elevation grants to make other repairs – with verbal approval from Road Home officials. Now, more than 15 years later, the state is suing some 3,500 recipients, most of them people with low incomes, in an attempt to recoup money that was spent years ago. An investigation by The Advocate’s Richard A. Webster and WWL-TV’s David Hammer for Pro Publica found that the fault isn’t with homeowners, but rather the state contractors who mismanaged the program:
Louisiana gave money to 32,000 homeowners starting in 2008. The state was in such a rush to distribute grants that no one verified they were eligible, according to the testimony of a top state official in one of the lawsuits … For many low-income homeowners, the suits could threaten financial ruin. Several pre-emptively declared bankruptcy, according to their attorneys. Others failed to defend themselves in court, resulting in the state placing liens on their properties. Some fear their homes will be taken away. “We worked our asses off to get where we are now,” said Michelle Williams, 54, who is being sued along with her husband, Patrick Williams. “And for this to happen? You’re not helping the people of Louisiana. You’re knocking us farther and farther back.”
“Don’t say gay” bill an avoidable threat to state economy
Louisiana’s version of Florida’s infamous “don’t say gay” bill died in a House committee earlier this month before being resurrected and brought to the floor in a rarely-used parliamentary maneuver. House Bill 837 by Rep. Dodie Horton would bar public school teachers from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through eighth grade classrooms and prohibits teachers from talking about their own sexual orientation or gender identity with students through high school. An Advocate editorial warns that this bigoted legislation would harm children – and our lucrative tourism industry.
The bill is a clear and present danger to economic development, particularly to the vital tourism industry in greater New Orleans and elsewhere in Louisiana. How many people are going to book a fun-filled vacation in a state with 13th-century social attitudes? We don’t want to find out. … And business interests should no longer be shy about saying that this is a bad idea. Otherwise, they are complicit not only in injustice to kids, but in the economic consequences of HB837.
As The Advocate’s Lanny Keller explains, the decision to discharge the bill from the House Education Committee after it was handily voted down undermines the legislative process in the lower chamber.
The committee structure may be a boring topic, but it is a vital operating system for the House, or any legislative body. To get the votes for the discharge meant that the GOP leadership was not only taking a political stand on an anti-gay measure, but that a committee decision was undermined. The decision in committee against House Bill 837 by Rep. Dodie Horton, of Haughton — a card-carrying member of the GOP grenade-throwing caucus — wasn’t even a close call on the merits. It’s meant to stuff into the classroom closet any discussion of gay people in society.
The baby formula shortage
Just two companies dominate the market for baby formula — an essential need for parents, including many whose work schedules don’t allow time for breastfeeding or pumping. But since February, due to a recall and prolonged production shutdown at an Abbott Nutrition manufacturing plant, formula supplies have been scarce. While the shortage is affecting families nationwide, a recent outbreak tied to contaminated infant formula is having a disproportionate effect on low-income families. Vox’s Dylan Scott explains:
Most families rely on infant formula to one degree or another. Nearly one in five babies receive formula within their first two days of life, according to the CDC. By three months, less than half of babies are exclusively breastfeeding, meaning they are taking at least some formula as a supplement. But all families are not equally reliant on formulas. According to CDC survey data, people living in poverty are most likely to report that they’ve supplemented with formula in the first three months of their baby’s life. Black, Hispanic, Asian, and American Indian parents are all more likely to say that they used formula within three months than white parents.
Number of the Day
18.6% – Percentage increase in cost of airfare for the month of April. This was the largest increase on record for a single month and represented approximately a quarter of the overall increase in inflation for April. (Source: Axios)