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The Trouble with Being Born


In a red state, it’s no great privilege to be born. Certainly not from a legal standpoint.

Republican-run governments are highly protective of the unborn, and are now extending legal protection to frozen embryos, at least in Alabama. If you happen to be one of those far-from-born organisms, you now enjoy all the rights of a living child.

It’s when you get yourself born that things get complicated. Not that you would then lose those rights, just that they’d be widely ignored, poorly enforced, and cynically violated.

But as long as you stay unborn, you’ve got lots of rights you don’t need. In Alabama — a theocracy-in-waiting — the entire nine months of your gestation are now protected by law, and violations of that law will be subject to investigation and enforcement. Logic would now say that if you, a formerly frozen embryo, were to die anywhere along that timeline, a charge of murder could be brought against anyone who might be seen as responsible.

The crime scene might well be an embryo freezer that malfunctions — or is accidently unplugged, or loses power in a blackout — leaving thousands of “living” children thawed to death. Who, then, is liable for the accidental embryocide? Who presses that charge? Who brings that lawsuit? Who pays for it?

And who pays for the continued storage of the embryos that can’t, by law, be discarded? If it’s the parents who have to keep them frozen in perpetuity, can they be claimed as dependents for tax purposes, like other living children? Has anyone thought this through?

Alabama legislators will, at minimum, need to regulate embryo freezing. They’ll need to write and enforce new statutes, and make sure violators are brought to justice. They’ll need to hire and train more police and more lawyers. To pay for it all, they’ll need to either raise taxes or cut state services, and we know how that will go. The party of less government will soon need a lot more government.

But the crime scene, far more often, will be a uterus. Search warrants will be issued by prosecutors and granted by judges. Internal evidence will be gathered by police trained in forensic gynecology. If there is evidence of a crime — a recent abortion, a suspicious miscarriage, a fetus dead for two weeks because doctors were too terrified of criminal charges to remove it — your tax dollars will ensure that those responsible, including the owner of that uterus, are punished. Incarceration and execution are not off the table.

But let’s go back to those rights of a living child, the rights you first acquired as a frozen embryo, and which presumably carry through to your childhood.

In a red state, alas, those rights grow sharply less meaningful from birth onward. Your government will fight like hell for you, right up to the cutting of the placenta. After that, you’re on your own.

Because to red state governments, the born are a huge inconvenience. It’s one thing to maintain law and order in the uterus — that’s only for nine months. But as complicated as it is to police those three trimesters of gestation, the next eighteen years are exponentially more taxing — in both senses of the word.

Unavoidably, the born are by nature needy. They need adequate nutrition, they need healthcare, they need clothes to wear, schools to attend, drinking water with no lead in it, and a reasonably benign environment to grow up in.

They need the very things any born person might expect from a state government, were that government not lining the pockets of its donors at the expense of its constituents. And were its constituents not so blindingly stupid as to let that happen.

So a lot of the born are encouraged to go hungry. They live in environments that regularly experience food insecurity, and they get little help from their states.

The least help comes from states like, say, Iowa, where the governor, Kim Reynolds, recently turned down federal funding for a vital summer food program for low-income children. The program, offered to all states, helps children who depend on school meals for basic nutrition, and who get hungry in the summer when school’s out. It would’ve provided low-income Iowans with an extra $40 per child per month, and its only downside was that it was created by Democrats.

Which was, of course, enough to kill it. To Reynolds and her Republican hacks, the very idea that kids might want to eat food year-round is shameful. In her statement rejecting the funding, she tossed out a wild non sequitur, declaring that the program “…does nothing to promote nutrition at a time when childhood obesity has become an epidemic." In this worldview, the born have the unalienable right to go hungry.

They also have the right to work, and the younger the better. In Florida — and assorted other red states — child labor laws are being actively rolled back. Companies, you see, have grown desperate for workers, and Ron DeSantis’s pet legislature thinks 16- and 17-year-olds working eight-hour days — after school, mind you — is the perfect solution to the labor shortage. Yes, a sane immigration policy would be a far better idea, but we know how that goes.

The rationalizations for these rollbacks are precious:

Hey, these kids aren’t just working — they’re expanding their education. Hey, they’re not being exploited — they’re getting real-world experience. Hey, they’re not just getting out of school at three in the afternoon, then working at a big-box store till midnight — they’re acquiring new skills. As one Florida Republican put it, these jobs are an “invisible curriculum.”

But let’s not single out Florida, Iowa, or even Alabama, for cruel and regressive policy-making. Let’s just say that if, as a born person in any red state, you manage to make it into adulthood, you’re still not safe.

Because it turns out these states aren’t so great for grownups either.

I wrote last October about the health hazards of living in red states. But at the time, we didn’t have the new statistical revelations of Max Taves, writing in DC Report.

Using readily available data from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Taves is able to show, with crystal clarity, the cumulative effects of administrations that proclaim themselves pro-life, but whose actual policies are exactly the opposite.

He uses this robust dataset to confirm what we’ve long suspected, and should now amplify at every opportunity:

Of the 10 states with the highest rates of death from influenzasuicide and murder, seven are Republican.

Of the 10 states with the highest rates of death from heart diseasekidney disease and Alzheimer’s, eight are Republican.

Of the 10 states with the lowest life expectancies and the highest rates of firearms deaths, workplace fatalities, motor vehicle deaths and premature mortality — that is, dying before 75 — nine are Republican.

Of the 10 states with the highest rates of cancer deaths and overall mortality — think dying from any and all causes in a given year — 10 are Republican.

In other words, Republicans are killing you. They are the party of death. These datasets represent the end product of forty years of tilting the playing field and working the refs.

Republican governments protect polluters, real estate hucksters, corporate robber barons, the unborn, and the born again. If you’ve only been born once, you’re out of luck.

We’ve grown so numb to absurdity, we sometimes forget how utterly absurd it is to favor the rights of the unborn over those of the born. But then, Republicans always come up with something like the Alabama embryo decision, which serves to remind us that absurdity is as central to their mission as cruelty, bigotry, and disinformation.

It’s who they are. It’s what we’ve come to expect from them. It’s what the born need to understand.


  1. Maybe, this what the "again" means in Make America Great Again. These do seem a lot like early 20th century conditions. Maybe, they just left off the "...for old white men" part for political expediency.

  2. The only people GOP legislators favor The born ones that is) are themselves.


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