Mississippi Republicans who oppose abortion also oppose expanding post-partum care: report

Mississippi Republicans who oppose abortion also oppose expanding post-partum care: report

One of the cruel ironies of the so-called “pro-life” movement is the fact that the same Republicans who want to outlaw abortion also oppose universal health care and even the modest reforms of the Affordable Care Act of 2010, a.k.a. Obamacare. That fact is painfully obvious in the deep red state that helped pave the way for the likely demise of Roe v. Wade: Mississippi, which according to ProPublica, has an abysmal track record when it comes to caring for women after they have given birth.

Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, the case that is likely to resort in Roe v. Wade being overturned, deals with a draconian anti-abortion law in Mississippi. Pro-choice opponents of the law are slamming it as an unconstitutional violation of Roe v. Wade, but a leaked majority draft opinion in the case finds Justice Samuel Alito arguing that Roe was wrongly undecided and needs to be overturned.

If Roe, a 1973 ruling, is overturned, deep red Mississippi will no doubt end up with a total statewide abortion ban. But as reporter Sarah Smith emphasizes in an article published by ProPublica on May 16, forcing pregnant women in Mississippi to give birth whether they like it or not doesn’t mean they can count on adequate health coverage — especially if they have the misfortune of being poor.

“When it comes to reproductive care,” Smith explains, “Mississippi has a dual distinction. The state spawned the law that likely will lead to the Supreme Court striking down Roe v. Wade. It is also unique among Deep South states for doing the least to provide health care coverage to low-income people who have given birth. Mississippians on Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor, lose coverage a mere 60 days after childbirth.”

Smith adds, “That’s often well before the onset of post-partum depression or life-threatening, birth-related infections: A 2020 study found that people racked up 81% of their postpartum expenses between 60 days and a year after delivery. And Mississippi’s own Maternal Mortality Review Committee found that 37% of pregnancy-related deaths between 2013 and 2016 occurred more than six weeks post-partum.”

Democrats have their share of disagreements about how best to expand access to health care. During the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, now-President Joe Biden had some heated debates with Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts over their Medicare-for-all proposals. But whether the U.S. achieves universal health care through a government-operated single payer program or an aggressive expansion of Obamacare, Democrats are generally in agreement that all Americans should be insured — a view that Republicans don’t share. Far-right Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin still wants to overturn the Affordable Care Act and abolish Obamacare.

But Mississippi, Smith points out, is uniquely bad among states when it comes to caring for women who have given birth.

“Every other state in the Deep South has extended or is in the process of extending Medicaid coverage to 12 months post-partum,” Smith observes. “Wyoming and South Dakota are the only other states where trigger laws will outlaw nearly all abortions if Roe falls and where lawmakers haven’t expanded Medicaid or extended post-partum coverage.”

Smith adds that in Mississippi, efforts to “extend” Medicaid “coverage past 60 days have repeatedly failed.”

Cassandra Welchlin, executive director of the Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable, told ProPublica, “It’s hypocrisy to say that we are pro-life on one end, that we want to protect the baby, but yet, you don’t want to pass this kind of legislation that will protect that mom who has to bear the responsibility of that child.”

Welchin warned that failing to extend Medicaid coverage to women in Mississippi after they have given birth could kill them.

“We know in the state of Mississippi, women die at higher rates — and of course, it’s higher for Black women,” Welchin told ProPublica. “And so, when women don’t have that coverage, what happens is they die.”

Andrea Miller, president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health, finds it “unconscionable” that Mississippi Republicans want to outlaw abortion without expanding health coverage in their state.

“These bans on abortion are going to be layered on top of an already-unconscionable maternal and infant health crisis that most particularly impacts those who are struggling to make ends meet,” Miller told ProPublica. “It particularly impacts Black women and other communities of color.... A state like Mississippi that is so clearly wanting to ban abortions — the fact that they refuse to extend basic health care benefits that will help during pregnancy and post-partum just clearly indicates that they are not interested in the health and wellbeing of women and families and children, that they are purely on an ideological crusade.”

As Miller sees it, conversations about abortion rights and conversations about material health coverage need to go hand in hand.

Miller told ProPublica, “You can’t have a conversation about legality or soon-to-be illegality of abortion in these states and not have a conversation simultaneously about the existing crisis around maternal and infant health. These things are all interconnected, and that’s why it is so deeply disturbing that the states trying to ban abortion are the same states that are refusing to expand Medicaid under the ACA, that are failing to take advantage of the ability to extend postpartum (coverage) by 12 months, that don’t invest in child care, that don’t invest in education — these are all part of the same conversation.”

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