On Thursday nearly every House Republican voted against a bill that would send $28 million to the FDA to increase the supply of baby formula, after weeks of politicizing the national baby formula shortage and nonsensically tying the crisis to Democratic lawmakers’ support for abortion rights.
The Infant Formula Supplemental Appropriations Act would fund additional FDA staff to inspect formula at domestic and foreign suppliers, prevent fraudulent and dangerous formula from getting on shelves, and improve data collection on the issue. Despite Republican opposition, the bill still passed by a 231-192 margin almost entirely along party lines, which is truly a testament to what’s at stake in this year’s midterm elections.
Most House Republicans, save for nine outlier-ishly evil dicks, voted for a different bill Wednesday night that would allow more formula to be purchased through a federal program aiding low-income parents and children, which passed by a 414-9 vote. But this doesn’t make it any less cruel that Republican lawmakers almost unilaterally rejected this second bill. Despite weeks of finger-wagging Democrats’ for their lack of plans, they unceremoniously, yet entirely predictably, voted against the plan.
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise told his caucus to reject the bill for “throwing additional money at the FDA with no plan to actually fix the problem, all while failing to hold the FDA accountable.” The plan is, notably, to fund the production of more formula—and what Scalise meant by “hold the FDA accountable” is unclear. For what?
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) lied that the bill would, somehow, “make baby formula shortages worse,” which doesn’t even make sense.
The urgent stakes of this issue—whether babies and infants across the country will be able to eat—frankly couldn’t be higher. Just last week, one mother lost her infant, who was killed in a devastating car chase from police after she had been forced to steal formula from a store amid the shortage.
As one mother recently told Jezebel’s Emily Leibert, the formula shortage compounds with all of the other exhausting struggles that come with being a new mother or parent, especially in a country that allocates so much of the labor of childcare along gendered lines. Thus, the crisis is “just one other thing to think about when you’re already juggling a million things as a mom.” Yet, as one nurse and lactation specialist also told Jezebel, “Feeding babies is always politicized.”
The Biden administration should have taken action sooner. The president is only now invoking the Defense Production Act to prioritize ingredients and get them to formula manufacturers, as well as authorizing a program to use military aircraft to import formula from abroad. But these steps shouldn’t have waited until this week. All of our lawmakers across party lines share a decent amount of responsibility for the escalation of this crisis. Not to mention one that would be entirely avoidable—if we weren’t governed by an economic system that commodifies basic needs and allows corporations to profit off essential resources that people and their babies need to literally not die.
But while Democratic leadership in Congress and the White House were preparing to take legislative action, it feels relevant to mention what Republican leaders across the country were doing: Demonizing undocumented people for seeking baby formula, inexplicably comparing the formula shortage to “critical race theory” in schools, telling parents to just breastfeed, and, of course, ramping up attacks on legal abortion.
With the Supreme Court poised to overturn Roe v. Wade in a ruling that could come any day now, Congressional Republicans are eyeing a national total or near-total abortion ban. Republican governors are signing abortion bans, planning special sessions to pass bans once Roe falls, illegally threatening abortion access on tribal land, and, of course, threatening pregnant rape survivors. And I say this, not just as someone who is perennially screaming about the utter decimation of abortion access in recent years, but because all of this is absolutely connected to the formula crisis.
Diapers, birth control, abortion, and any and all other family planning resources (like baby formula) are essential parts of what parents, pregnant people, infants, and families need to thrive. Nearly 60% of people who have abortions already have children, and being denied a wanted abortion puts someone—and their kids—at exponentially greater risk of being in poverty and experiencing domestic abuse.
When ostensibly “pro-life” lawmakers take action to ban and criminalize abortion, all while shutting down efforts to solve a baby formula crisis, those are two sides of the same coin, rather than hypocrisy. As you’ve probably figured out by now, theirs is not a movement to support and nurture life in any real way, but rather, violently force pregnancy and birth on the most marginalized in society, reduce pregnant people’s bodies and children to political talking points, and then all but entrap them in cycles of poverty. Just earlier this year, largely across party lines, Congress let the Child Tax Credit expire, almost immediately spiking the child poverty rate by 41%.
At the end of the day, this is who “pro-life” politicians are. In their own fucking words, they are infinitely more interested in increasing the “domestic supply of infants” via abortion bans and forced birth, than increasing the domestic supply of baby formula—you know, the food that keeps said supply of infants alive?