Testimony on HB 1460 - Family Caps
To: House Human Services Committee
From: Christopher Dodson, Executive Director
Subject: House Bill 1460 - Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
Date: January 28, 2003

The North Dakota Catholic Conference supports House Bill 1460 to remove the “cap” provision from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program and include delivery coverage in the Childrens Health Insurance program.

The North Dakota Catholic Conference opposed the cap provision when it was enacted in 1997. The experience of the Catholic Church and pro-life organizations, led us to believe, and still believe, that the provision encourages abortion and conveys on behalf of the state a mistaken priority of values.

The fundamental reason for opposing the family cap is ethical. By discriminating against a child solely because of the circumstances of his or her conception, it violates the child’s dignity and the common good. In a just and caring society we reach out a helping hand to those in need without regard for where they live, their race, who their parents are, or what their parents did. Family caps, however, punish the child for something his or her parents did, helping to perpetuate the poverty to which that child was born.

We recognize that proponents of the family cap often had a good intention, namely to reduce out-of-wedlock pregnancy. However, it is never justifiable to use a means that violates human dignity to achieve a desired good. Moreover, there is no evidence that family caps in North Dakota have reduced the rate of out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Certainly, if we want to encourage positive, self-respecting behavior by parents, we can find better ways to do it than penalizing the child.

Some have argued that the purpose was merely to reflect the working world where employees do not get pay increases because of new children. Economic assistance, however, was never meant to be an identical replacement for work, as our policies on other forms of assistance demonstrate. Moreover, there are other financial benefits to having children, especially in the area of taxes, that are available to most working families.

It is for similar reasons that we support including coverage for delivery in the childrens health insurance program. If we are to build a culture of life so that no child is left behind and every child welcomed, our state programs must reflect it. A children’s health insurance program that covers most every type of procedure, but not delivery, places barriers to carrying the child to full term. In addition, it sends a message that the state thinks that giving birth, rather than being a blessed event that should be praised, is something that should be discouraged.

We urge a Do Pass on House Bill 1460.