Opinion: Religious Republicans pandering to fossil fuel prove they are not pro-life

This past week Americans got another example of the religious Republican fallacy that the movement is pro-life, and another reminder that the GOP’s fealty to the fossil fuel industry is on par with their devotion to evangelical fundamentalists.

First, there were reports that there was a clash between Democrats and Republicans in the House over inclusion of some minor attempts to combat climate change in an infrastructure bill. Republicans objected to rail and bus network improvements and charging stations for electric vehicles built along U.S. highways. Republicans claimed the Democratic-driven legislation was a partisan effort to reduce carbon emissions even while claiming:

Believe it or not, Republicans care about these issues, but not through over reaching and heavy handed mandates that shift the nation away from fossil fuels. Surely there was common ground to be found on resiliency and climate issues.”

Republicans believe the only way to address “climate issues” is through tax breaks and research in technologies such as carbon capture and advanced nuclear reactors instead of any effort to limit pollution or carbon emissions. It is safe to say that nothing remotely reducing fossil fuel use, or pollution, is going to be accepted by Republicans despite the clear and present danger to the economy, national security, and pregnant women, babies, and fetuses.

It has been known for years that the relationship between air pollution and birth outcomes is not only real, it disproportionately affects African-American mothers and babies compared to the population at large. Now it is clear that rising temperatures as a result of anthropogenic climate change are just as dangerous.

A study published on Thursday in JAMA Network Open, a part of the journal of the American Medical Association, investigated 57 studies published since 2007 and discovered:

Pregnant women exposed to high temperatures or air pollution are more likely to have children who are premature, underweight or stillborn, and African-American mothers and babies are harmed at a much higher rate than the population according to research examining more than 32 million births in the United States.” (author bold)

The research adds to a an ever-increasing amount of evidence that minorities bear a disproportionate share of the danger from pollution and global warming. Not only are minority communities in the United States far more likely to be hotter than the surrounding areas, a phenomenon known as the “heat island” effect, but they are also more likely to be located near polluting industries.

According to Dr. Rupa Basu, one of the paper’s authors and the chief of the air and climate epidemiological section for the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment in California:

We already know that these pregnancy outcomes are worse for black women. It’s even more exacerbated by these exposures.”

Some of the data informing how deadly pollution and higher temperatures are for expecting mothers and the fetuses religious Republicans claim to care about is not necessarily new, but it is beyond refute at this juncture. For example, the vast majority of the studies in the report revealed that pollution greatly contributed to preterm births, low birth weight and stillbirth. In fact, one study revealed that high exposure to air pollution during the final trimester of pregnancy was linked to a 42 percent increase in the risk of stillbirth.

A different study included in the report looked at roughly half-a-million births in Florida in 2004 and 2005 and found that living closer to power plants using garbage to produce energy increased low birth weight by three percent. Living closer than 3 miles produced a higher risk of preterm birth. Almost all of the studies assessed in the report found that the risks were greater for Black mothers, their fetuses and babies.

Catherine Garcia Flowers is a field representative for an advocacy group, Houston Moms Clean Air Force, and she said the report was evidence that the federal government needed to tighten regulations against air pollution.  Ms. Flowers said:

This is a moment of reckoning for racial injustice and health disparities.  Doing nothing about air pollution, which so clearly has a greater impact on Black Americans, is racism in action.

The studies’ authors said that “the particular vulnerability of black mothers to heat and air pollution was likely the result of several systemic problems such as living closer to power plants and other sources of pollution.” They are also less likely to afford air conditioning or “live in neighborhoods with green spaces that can keep temperatures down.”

Adding to the problem is the lack of medical care available to minority patients. According to Dr. Basu:

Research has shown that minority communities tend to have less access to medical help and that minority patients tend not to receive equal levels of treatment. There might not be as much care given to a woman of color versus a white woman.”

It is worth noting that none of the information in the report is new. However, it is more undeniable proof that adhering to Trump and his Republican facilitators refusal to take any effective steps to reduce the effects of climate change, or the level of pollutants in the air and water, is detrimental to the lives of all Americans – especially minority mothers and their offspring. House Republicans throwing a fit over Democratic attempts to reduce carbon emissions reveals that they are only interested in the fossil fuel industry’s profits.

Of course this is not all on Republicans; Trump has made eliminating clean air and water regulations one of his primary goals since the day after his poorly-attended inauguration. It is highly likely that if Congress did happen to pass a transportation-infrastructure bill with provisions for mass transit or electric vehicles Trump would veto it with extreme prejudice.

It is remarkable that Democrats are not beating religious Republicans senseless for claiming to be pro-life, including being pro-fetus, while vehemently supporting Trump’s pro-fossil fuel agenda that is a serious threat to fetuses as well as expectant mothers.

If Republicans, or Trump for that matter, cared one iota about any life, or clump of cells in a mother’s womb, they would move the proverbial Heaven and Earth to reduce pollution and take steps to combat climate change. Instead, they oppose any agenda that seeks to reduce carbon emissions driving climate change and the health threats to minority mothers and their offspring. Trump and religious Republicans are pro-oil, pro-pollution, pro-climate change, and pro-death, but they are not pro-life.