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Some Republican governors, including Maryland's Gov. Larry Hogan, want to cut their state Medicaid funding for poor pregnant women because nothing demonstrates one's pro-life values better than cutting off health care for the unborn.

Republicans already have the reputation for being anti-abortion while not giving a hoot about the well-being of children once they are born. Hogan and others are taking this philosophy one step further by working to remove health care for the unborn, too.

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The message to pregnant mothers appears to be that we expect you to carry, deliver and give birth to your child, but we are not going to make it easy for you and your child to have a healthy pregnancy, birth and life. If we are not going to help poor women have healthy babies, perhaps we should help them avoid having children in the first place. But Republicans are against birth control coverage, too.

The provision of prenatal care is a significant predictor of a newborn's health and well-being. Research shows that the earlier prenatal care begins in a women's pregnancy, the better the outcome for her child. Daychin Campbell, childbirth educator at the Stanford School of Medicine stated that, "Prenatal care is extremely important because it reduces the risk of pregnancy-related complications such as anemia, preterm birth, preeclampsia, complications of diabetes or poor growth of the baby in utero. Babies born to mothers who received no prenatal care are three times more likely to be born at low birth weight."

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According to Erin Cox of The Baltimore Sun, since the provision of Medicaid assistance to poor women making less than 250 percent of the poverty level, infant mortality rates in Maryland "dropped by 22 percent, from 8.1 deaths per 1,000 to 6.3." Indeed, prenatal care saves lives.

Being pro-life doesn't start and end with the abortion issue. Being pro-life should include doing everything possible to protect the health of babies before, during and after delivery.

Pay now or pay later, but prenatal care is significantly cheaper than taking care of children born with special needs due to developmental or medical challenges. You would think that fiscal conservatives would be able to do a cost-benefit analysis and understand that if you don't want to help poor women avoid pregnancy by covering birth control, then at least help them receive good prenatal care for their sake and the sake of their unborn child. Expanding Medicaid for prenatal care is not just a pro-life decision; it is a fiscally conservative decision saving tax payers billions of dollars in the long-term.

Unfortunately, conservatives appear to be blinded by their political and religious ideology to recognize the hypocrisy between what they say they believe and what they practice. Cutting Medicaid funding for poor pregnant women is the height of hypocrisy for conservatives. It is both morally indefensible as a pro-life position and a very poor budgetary strategy.

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But the hypocrisy gets worse. Republican governors are telling these women that instead of depending on Medicaid for their prenatal health care they should get their health coverage from private insurance through the Affordable Care Act. But aren't Republicans trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act? Republicans are encouraging women to seek health care for themselves and their unborn child through the ACA that their colleagues in Congress have voted to repeal more than 50 times.

Let's be smart about where we cut funding to balance our state budget. Saving a little now by cutting prenatal care for poor women is a poor short-term solution with many long-term perils.

Tom Zirpoli writes from Westminster. His column appears Wednesdays. Email him at tzirpoli@mcdaniel.org.

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