The DOBB’S STRATEGY HEADS SOUTH
……….THE PINK HOUSE, THE STATE’S LONE ABORTION CLINIC for 23 years, operated by Jackson Women’s Health Organization, is now a luxury furniture and home decor consignment shop. The clinic closed the day before the state’s trigger ban took effect after the Dobbs decision. Jamie Bardwell, co-founder and co-director of Converge, which provides family planning care, describes the general reaction of Mississippians to the ban as “Wait, I thought abortion was already illegal.” It was, she says, “like the bomb that didn’t drop.”
The irony of the Mississippi gubernatorial race is that even though health care has emerged as a top issue, reproductive issues have received little attention. Mississippi is so far out in front in so many grim health metrics that it could be in a category by itself. In a country with worsening maternal health outcomes, Mississippi has continuously and conspicuously failed its women. Its infant mortality rate is the worst in the country at 9.39 deaths for every 1,000 babies in 2021, a five-year high. Black women had a maternal mortality rate four times higher than white women. There is no neonatal intensive care unit in the mostly Black and rural Mississippi Delta. A person has to go to Jackson or Memphis for a maternal fetal specialist.
Contraceptive access isn’t any better. “A lot of providers, for example, would counsel especially Black women or young people to choose certain methods based off of what they thought was better for their bodies,” says Jitoria Hunter, Converge’s Vice President of External Affairs. “They didn’t have access to the wide range of FDA-approved options for contraception.”
Poor reproductive health joins a long list of health care burdens that contribute to Mississippians’ abysmal health profiles. What gives Medicaid expansion supporter Presley some leverage with conservative voters taken in by the health-care-for-low-income-people-as-“welfare” argument that Reeves, an expansion opponent, regularly uses, is that neighboring Louisiana and Arkansas have both expanded Medicaid. The Arkansas example has some appeal for Mississippi lawmakers. Arkansas officials secured a waiver that allowed federal Medicaid funds to go to private health insurers instead of through state government departments, giving state lawmakers at least the appearance of backing a private plan rather than a government-sponsored one. With nearly half of Mississippi’s rural hospitals at risk for shutting down, Medicaid expansion could relieve some of the burdens of uncompensated care that these hospitals provide to the uninsured.
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