Last month, conservative state lawmaker Peter Palumbo (D-RI) coined the offensive term “anchor embryos” on Fox News’ On the Record with Greta Van Susteren. “Anchor embryos” is a spin on “anchor babies,” a derogatory and “politically charged” term used to refer to the U.S. citizen children of undocumented parents. According to Palumbo, the “anchor embryo” phenomena is “unique” to Rhode Island because the state offers undocumented pregnant women prenatal assistance.
Last night, Palumbo returned to Van Susteren’s show to talk about his recent meeting with Arizona lawmakers and once again brought up “anchor embryos.” This time, however, he added that “we’re going to get inundated” by undocumented immigrants and that “it actually could be the collapse of our country”:
I explained last time we have something called the anchor embryos. We have such liberal programs were we take care — if you’re an illegal alien woman — you get to Rhode Island, you go to the Department of Human Services, they give you either Neighborhood Health, United, or Blue Cross. They’ll give you a card with $400 a month on it and allow you to spend it on everything but food because, sit tight, we’re gonna give you another $275 a month to spend on food. These programs are outrageous when people are dying. [...]
They’re coming in, they’re self-deporting and we’re going to get inundated and it actually could be the collapse of our country. We need to work together as a team to get this thing solved.
As I pointed out last time, it’s pretty ironic that Palumbo supports denying the mothers of future U.S. citizen children prenatal care as someone who also sponsored The Women’s Right to Know Act in 2002 which included provisions requiring doctors to “offer alternatives to abortion and about available public and private assistance for prenatal care, childbirth, and services available to help with children and families.”
In fact, anti-abortion activists have made a pretty big deal about ensuring that undocumented women have access to prenatal care assistance in the past, stating that it “improves the chances that a woman will choose to give birth rather than seek an abortion.”
Regardless of one’s position on abortion, there’s actually a strong economic argument to make in support of providing undocumented women prenatal care assistance. If a woman is denied prenatal care because she can’t afford it, there’s a much higher chance that complications will arise if she keeps the baby. Prenatal care is an essential preventive service that helps keeps costs down.
Jennifer L. Howse, Ph.D. of the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation writes that the “the cumulative weight of many studies is that prenatal care saves lives and money by reducing the number of babies born needing expensive neonatal care.” As Dan Agin of the University of Chicago further notes in his piece, “Health Care and the Unborn: Why We Need Free Prenatal Care,” that inadequate prenatal care is a tremendous health risk for both the mother and her child. “No pediatrician will deny this,” writes Agin.
Palumbo’s goal of ridding Rhode Island of undocumented immigrants and their embryos would likely have other catastrophic consequences. A report by the Perryman Group estimated that if all unauthorized immigrants were removed from Rhode Island, the state would lose $698.0 million in economic activity, $310.0 million in gross state product, and approximately 3,780 jobs, even accounting for adequate market adjustment time.