On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled on one of the most controversial issues in the last 50 years. It overturned Roe v. Wade, the decision that made abortion legal in the United States. Thirty-seven percent of the population rejoiced arguing that all children have a right to life. Will those same voices rise to create policy supporting children and families as they grow?

In 2019, the last year that the CDC reported abortion numbers, 629,898 women had legal and medical abortions. The Guttmacher Institute reports 14.4 abortions per 1,000 pregnancies of women 15 to 44 years of age, with the CDC numbers suggesting that 85 percent of the women who had abortions were unmarried, 38 percent were Black, 31 percent white, and 21 percent Hispanic. Forty-nine percent of women who have abortions live on incomes that are below the poverty line. 

A nation that aims to protect the life of its young should undoubtedly also care about protecting the influx of babies as they develop into toddlerhood, preschool, school-age, and beyond. Yet, few in the nation are taking the long-range view of a post-Roe world. This must become a national priority. 

In the U.S. in 2020, 8.4 million children needed child care. A survey of 25 states found that 27 percent of the children who needed child care could not obtain a slot, meaning that as a nation, we were 2.3 million spaces short of what was required to ensure that children were well cared for when parents — especially women — returned to work. 

If birth rates remain stable in the country, in just three years in a post-Roe country, the U.S. could be short 2,897,898 spaces for early child care. Put another way, if the birth rates remain stable, 31 percent of families would not have the kind of support for their children’s care that they require. This shortage will fall disproportionately on families of color and on those who live beneath the poverty line, making it even more unlikely that underserved families will be able to escape a cycle of poverty without strong governmental intervention. 

Read the full article about social infrastructure by Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Margaret Burchinal and Roberta Michnick Golinkoff at Brookings.