States across the country have enacted a host of policies aimed at making it harder for people to make decisions about their bodies and families with dignity and self-determination. Many of these policies are specifically aimed at restricting the reproductive health decisions of low-income women. For example, laws in 17 states prevent families receiving cash assistance through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program from receiving an increase in benefits for a child born while the family is already receiving TANF cash assistance. These laws, known as “family caps,” are intended to discourage a woman receiving cash assistance from having additional children. Family caps propel families further into poverty, forcing them to stretch already limited TANF dollars farther to cover a new baby.
Many of the states with family caps also restrict access to necessary health insurance coverage. States should not restrict the availability of Medicaid coverage, Medicaid birth control coverage, and public and private insurance coverage of abortion. Access to health care, especially reproductive health care, is crucial for people to be able to plan their families and have healthy pregnancies. Without health insurance coverage many people, particularly those with lower incomes, will be unable to afford needed health care.
At the same time many of the states that have enacted family caps permit unfair and discriminatory workplace practices that make it harder for pregnant women and mothers to enter and remain in the workplace. States that truly care about supporting women and families should enact laws the require employers to make reasonable accommodations for medical needs arising out of pregnancy so that pregnant women can continue to do their jobs and have a healthy pregnancy. Likewise, laws that require employers to give their employees advance notice of work schedules, the right to request a change in their schedules without fear of retaliation, and that limit last minute schedule changes, ensure that parents can stay employed and still meet their caregiving responsibilities. Without these protections pregnant workers and those with caregiving responsibilities may be fired or forced out of their jobs. This can be propel families into poverty and lead to years of decreased earnings and job instability.
This map provides a short description of each state’s family cap law, as well as information on access to health care including contraception and abortion and the economic landscape for families.