Passage of the Economic Stimulus package in Congress last week was a triumph not only for the new Obama Administration, but for the Catholic Social Tradition. After eight years of dramatic expansion in spending on weapons and war, approaching a trillion dollars annually, the new legislation prioritizes helping people. According to the New York Times, the $787 billion package provided for $500 billion in funding for social services and investment in infrastructure.
The package budgets an extra $20 billion for food stamps, an average of $63 per month for a family of three, which will make a dramatic difference in assuring that children are well nourished enough to learn in schools across the country. $2.1 billion are provided to expand Head Start early childhood support, and $2 billion to expand quality child care. Republican Arlen Specter championed a $10 billion expansion in research funding for the NIH to address a host of human diseases, and $87 billion were provided for expanded federal support of Medicaid health insurance for the poor.
In conservative religious circles, much has been made about the supposed pro-abortion policies of the new administration. But the reality is that progress against abortion, so substantial during the Clinton years, slowed significantly under President Bush. A raft of new studies has shown the effect that economic factors have on abortion rates, and the Bush Recession is likely to push significantly more women into having abortions over the next 2-3 years as joblessness rises, health insurance rates fall, and disposable income diminishes.
The Obama stimulus package may be the best hope for those who truly care about the unborn, addressing as it does the needs of young people and families. By helping limit the damage of the Bush Recession on the neediest in society (the most likely to pursue an abortion), it may be that more of the unborn will find their way into the world in the months and years to come.