October 26, 2013
As California closed the book on the 2013 legislative session, a popular notion took hold, here and across the nation, that the Golden State is a pretty woman-friendly place. At a time when many states are losing ground in reproductive rights and women’s health care generally, California has passed legislation that increases abortion access, repeals Targeted Regulation of Abortion Provider (TRAP) laws and improves pre- and perinatal health care services. These are legitimate political gains, and the advocates who achieved them should be proud.
But I worry that California progressives are prematurely popping the champagne. Yes, several of our new laws protecting women’s rights are forward-looking, but that’s only part of the story being lived by women in our state. Look outside the official narrative of “progressive California” and you’ll see a different story unfolding, one in which the state can, and does, assert strict control over female bodies. But because those bodies belong to the poor and disenfranchised, we don’t hear much about it.
One piece of pro-woman legislation that didn’t make it to the governor’s desk was Assembly Bill 271 aimed at repealing the Maximum Family Grant rule for CalWORKs recipients. Under this rule, CalWORKs families are ineligible for a benefits increase if a new child is born when they’ve been on CalWORKs for 10 months. This can be devastating for families barely making ends meet with a combination of low-wage jobs and government assistance. In refusing to acknowledge new children born to struggling families, CalWORKs as it’s currently administered can cause them to slide even further into poverty.