Roe v. Wade

Wicker weighs in on national abortion ban proposal


Sen. Wicker the only Mississippi Republican to weigh in on national abortion ban proposal

U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker was the only member of Mississippi’s Republican congressional delegation to respond to questions this week about a proposal to impose a nationwide ban on abortions after 15 weeks.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, recently proposed the 15-week ban in the aftermath of the overturning the national right to an in June in a watershed case from Mississippi. The ruling — Dobbs v. — meant the decision on whether to allow or to restrict abortions would be for each individual state to make.

The fact that the state of Mississippi is in a real sense ground zero for the current abortion debate, thanks to the Dobbs case, makes the comments of the state’s congressional delegation relevant.

But were all silent — except for Wicker.

“The Senate Republican conference is unified in seeking as many pro-life protections as possible for all Americans, but this goal has historically shown to be most effectively achieved when legislated at the local level,” Wicker said in a statement.

Graham, of course, is touting national legislation on abortion.

It would be fair to say that some Republican candidates are backtracking on their position on abortion as the November midterm elections approach. Polls in many states, including Mississippi, indicate that the Supreme Court action overturning , which provided the national right to an abortion, might not be as popular as some conservatives thought it would be. Voters in conservative Kansas rejected a state constitutional amendment that would have made it easier for the Legislature to ban abortion.

That vote was a wake-up call for many.

In May before the Supreme Court had overturned Roe v. Wade, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said that it was “possible” that a Republican-majority Senate might vote next year on legislation to place a federal ban on abortions.

But more recently as McConnell is trying to elect enough Republicans in November to capture a Senate majority, he’s changed his tune.

Speaking on Graham’s proposal for a national 15-week ban, McConnell said, “You’ll have to ask him about it. In terms of scheduling, I think most of the members of my conference prefer that this be dealt with at the state level.”

It is important to note that under Graham’s proposal there would be a 15-week national ban but states that chose to have stricter bans, like Mississippi, would not be prevented from doing so. Mississippi bans all abortions except in the case of rape and to preserve the life of the mother. In addition, Mississippi has another law that bans abortions after six weeks except in cases of medical emergency.

Wicker pointed out Mississippi has led the way in terms of anti-abortion advocacy.

“I hope that Mississippi’s strong laws defending the unborn can serve as a model for my colleagues and help them make a difference in their respective states,” Wicker said. “We cannot allow partisan spin to undermine our determination to fight for the rights of the unborn, including at the federal level.”

It is fair to say that Wicker was a groundbreaker in terms of passing laws to restrict abortion in Mississippi. As a state senator representing Lee and Pontotoc counties in northeast Mississippi in the late 1980s and early 90s, he was one of the leaders in passing legislation enacting a 24-hour waiting period on having an abortion and imposing additional restrictions on abortion clinics.

At that time, few states were passing such legislation.

While Wicker was the only one of the five Republicans in the congressional delegation to comment on the Graham bill, all of them in the past have expressed strong anti-abortion views. Mississippi’s only Democrat in the congressional delegation – Bennie Thompson – voted for a bill that essentially would have restored the Roe v. Wade standards. That bill passed the U.S. House, but was blocked by Senate Republicans.

The issue of abortion, no doubt, will be a major issue in the November elections. Polls indicate that the issue of abortion could provide Democrats a boost. But in Mississippi abortion is not expected to be a major issue.

Wicker and the state’s other U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith are not up for re-election this year. The three House incumbents — Michael Guest of the 3rd, Trent of the 1st and Thompson of the 2nd — are all heavy favorites and it is doubtful that their position on abortion will change those odds much.

In the 4th District, Republican Mike Ezell, who defeated incumbent Steven Palazzo in the Republican primary, is also anti-abortion.

The question is will Republicans vote on a national ban on the combustible issue if they capture the House and Senate this November.

Thus far, their position has been fluid.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Local activists push back on proposed plans to privatize city water system


‘What’s next, the air?’ Local activists push back on proposed plans to privatize city water system

At the southwest entrance to the Metrocenter Mall on Saturday, Sept. 3 –  the sixth day of Jackson’s current water crisis – shards of glass cluttered the sidewalk where doors used to be. Inside, a city worker drove a green forklift which left tracks on the marble floor and beige carpet as he reorganized hundreds of pallets of donated water one by one. 

This abandoned mall, where the primary tenants are and water department, has in recent weeks become the nexus of a city-wide water distribution effort called the Rapid Response Coalition, a partnership between the City of Jackson and volunteers with 30-plus advocacy organizations.

Water donated from across the country is brought here in 18-wheelers and then distributed early each morning to six coalition-run sites in neighborhoods in south and west Jackson, predominantly Black and poorer parts of the city more affected by the water crisis. 

Danyelle Holmes, a member of the Poor People’s Campaign, has spent nearly every day outside at the mall, helping to manage the massive distribution effort that the coalition estimates has put more than an 1.2 million bottles of water into the hands of Jacksonians for free. 

She said the goal is to help the city with its distribution effort and to fill gaps in the state’s response. 

“We’ve seen a lack of response from our government – our state government leadership, and so we decided two years ago when the pandemic hit that we weren’t going to wait on anyone to come and save us,” Holmes said. “So it’s our goal and it’s our mission to save ourselves.” 

READ MOREMississippi Today’s complete coverage of the Jackson water crisis

Two and a half weeks into the current water crisis, the coalition has scaled back operations as the city and state have restored the water pressure at the O.B. Curtis Water Plant and turned attention to addressing the boil water notice. This week, only two coalition sites – Westland Plaza and Oak Forest Community Center – are still open daily, with the rest operating just two days a week. Volunteers are prioritizing home delivery, Holmes said. 

Now, the coalition is shifting focus to drawing up demands – tentatively scheduled to be released this week – for a long-term solution to the water crisis. They hope to pressure state leaders to enact solutions they view as more equitable.

There are currently a handful of proposals on the table to fix Jackson’s water system, but every option reportedly entails Jackson ceding some control of its water system to an outside party, be it a state entity or commission, a regional authority, or a private company. 

To many activists, the state and to some extent the federal government bear responsibility for the water crisis, not the city. Any move that infringes on Jackson’s control of its water system seems to suggest the city is responsible for the crisis – a notion they attribute to racism. They emphasize that the water crisis would not have happened without white lawmakers withholding state funding. 

“We’ve only had Black leaders for the last two or three terms, so how can you blame this divestment on the fact that we have Black leadership?” asked Lorena Quiroz, the executive director of the Immigrant Alliance for Justice and Equity.

One proposal in particular – privatization – has been widely condemned by activists. State leaders have suggested that the city could lease its water system to a private company that would manage operations. The second week of the crisis, Lumumba said the city had been in talks to contract out operations and management.

When some Jacksonians hear the word “privatization,” though, they picture a for-profit company outright purchasing the water system.

Private water systems come at an increased cost to customers, though research has shown they are less likely to violate federal clean drinking-water laws than public utilities. 

Private water systems can also be less accountable to the public, which some activists said could be problematic at a time when trust needs to be restored in the system. 

“The thing with privatization is they control what they think is best for us,” said Imani Olugbala, a member of Cooperation Jackson. “If it’s government-led, we have some oversight. If it’s exclusively for profit, we have to pay the price for water, and it’s going to be whatever they say, because that’s the capitalist construction. What’s next, the air?”

Many also noted it’s ironic that state leaders who ignored Jackson’s water crisis get to decide the response. 

“I would’ve liked to see swifter movement on the state-level because it seemed like it was weeks before we heard anything from Gov. Reeves,” said Blaise Adams, a pre-law student at Tougaloo College who was passing out water at IAJE’s pick-up site. “Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad if it had been proactively worked on.” 

Quiroz questioned if Jackson’s water system can ever be truly fixed in a stratified, capitalist

“Water should be free. We shouldn’t have to pay for water,” she said. “That should be something that’s provided by the fucking state.” 

The work of distributing free water might not sound radical during a crisis, but to Holmes and other members of the Rapid Response Coalition, it is a model for how another, better society could function. 

Since the water emergency started, members of the coalition have held an 8 a.m. Zoom call to discuss plans for the day. They decide collectively how to spread out their resources – how much water should be allocated to each of the six pick-up sites based on the amount distributed the day before and who should respond to emergency calls the city’s 311 line receives from Jacksonians who need water.

The approach to activism is known as “mutual aid,” in which people in a community provide resources that the government failed to in a way that aims to not recreate systematic disparities. A term coined by a famous anarchist, mutual aid also aims to create social change by harnessing the collective work to achieve a political end. 

“We create our own system while at the same time pushing to change the current systems that fail people,” said Lea Campbell, the founding president of the climate-justice organization Mississippi Rising Coalition at IAJE’s site on the corner of Fortification and N West Street.

That Saturday morning – the same day Holmes was at the Metrocenter Mall – about 17 volunteers stood between cases of bottled water on the sidewalk. An occasional hitch like the backdoor of a Honda minivan closing slowly held up the line.

Some members donned red to show they were members of the local Democratic Socialist of America chapter; others, college students from Tougaloo and Oxford, wore shirts that said “DO GOOD” and “To understand the world, you must first understand a place like Mississippi.” 

“We got everybody in the house,” Quiroz said. She supervised the line with the attitude of a school teacher (she used to be one) overseeing car pick-up, inviting passersby who stopped to get some water to park their cars and volunteer. 

It’s important for organizations like IAJE to step up during disasters, Quiroz said, because many people can’t afford pricey and personal solutions like buying their own water or installing filtration systems. 

“It’s like the decision,” she said. “Folks that have the money can have access to as , they just have to get in their car and drive.” 

It can be scrappy work. At the Metrocenter Mall, the coalition’s base of operations was right next to a distribution site run by the Agency. Stocked with non-potable water, porta-potties, military-style forklifts and dozens of uniformed National Guardsmen, ’s site looked very different from the coalition’s. 

“The National Guard has far more money than we do, the state has far more resources, so we can’t begin to compete,” Holmes said. “That’s comparing apples to oranges.” 

As Holmes talked with Mississippi Today, about a dozen volunteers sat on empty wooden pallets, waiting for the workers inside the mall to finish unloading an 18-wheeler of water. At one point, a city water department employee tried to drive a forklift even though she had no experience. 

Kadin Love, an organizer with Black Youth Project 100, said he thinks the solution to the crisis is better state and local representation for Black Mississippians that will only be achieved if activists from across the country invest time and money in the state at a level that hasn’t been seen since Freedom Summer. 

“Money isn’t poured down here, folks don’t come down here to help us organize,” he said. “We’ve had to address our own issues systematically since basically 1964.” 

His experience this past year watching national go ignored as it unfolded in Jackson has not exactly left him feeling optimistic. 

“Mississippi was the epicenter of the fight for abortion, but we didn’t see millions of people down here organizing,” he said. “In Jackson, at some of our largest protests we max out at maybe 200, 300 people.” 

“Why didn’t we have any support beforehand?” he continued. “Why are we the last line of defense?” 

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Doctors, advocates worry rape victims won’t have abortion access


Can rape victims access abortion in Mississippi? Doctors, advocates say no.

Mississippi law theoretically allows rape victims access to , an exemption state leaders tout. But the doctors and advocates who work with victims say in reality, that access is almost nonexistent.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade, allowing Mississippi’s 2007 trigger ban to take effect in July, abortion has been legal in the state in only two cases: when necessary to save the life of the mother and when a pregnancy resulted from a rape that has been reported to law enforcement. 

“It does in fact have an exception for rape and it has an exception for life of the mother,” Gov. Tate Reeves said in a television appearance earlier this year. “I think that there’s no doubt that there are instances, there are individuals that certainly push for exceptions, and that’s okay.”

But doctors told Mississippi Today that they’re not aware of anyone in the state who will provide the procedure for rape victims because of concerns about potential legal consequences and logistical hurdles. 

Mississippi Today surveyed more than 20 hospitals and hospital chains in the state about whether they would provide legal abortions to people who have reported a rape to law enforcement. Some of the state’s biggest hospitals – including the and North Mississippi Health Services – refused to comment at all. 

Of those that responded, none said that its doctors would provide abortions for people who had reported a rape to law enforcement.

“I don’t think people in Mississippi can have comfort around, ‘Oh, if I’m raped, I will have access,’” one Jackson-area OB/GYN told Mississippi Today, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the physician did not have permission from their employer to talk to the media. “You probably won’t. You’ll have to find someone to do it that includes a hospital with the whole team there supporting that, and that’s much more difficult.”

A medical professional could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of providing an illegal abortion. Because for years all of the state’s elective abortions – which includes all procedures that are not medically necessary – took place at Mississippi’s sole abortion clinic, many OB/GYNs around the state lack the training to perform the procedure. 

That means victims of sexual violence will likely be forced to travel hours away from home to end a pregnancy that resulted from rape. 

Reeves’ office did not respond to a request for comment for the story. 

Before Mississippi’s trigger ban took effect, the state’s sole abortion clinic, the , provided abortions for rape victims. The clinic is now closed.

Diane Derzis, the clinic’s owner, said most of the time clinic staff did not know when they were serving a patient who had been raped. But a few times a year, law enforcement came to the clinic to pick up fetal remains, which could be used to gather DNA evidence to identify an assailant.

Derzis said she doesn’t believe anyone in Mississippi will provide abortions for people who have reported a rape.

“They’re screwed,” she said of rape victims. “Plain and simple. No one is going to take the responsibility or the liability … People are scared to , not just there but all over the country about what they can and can’t do. And they’re just not going to be willing to put themselves or their licenses on the line.”

Even before Dobbs, Mississippi doctors were wary of providing abortions. The Pink House exclusively employed out-of-state OB/GYNs who flew in monthly for a few days at a time. 

Anti-abortion activists protested at the homes of Mississippi-based abortion providers. 

“We go to the neighborhoods and tell everybody in the neighborhood what they do,” long-time anti-abortion activist David Lane told Mississippi Today in June. “They don’t like that. But if it’ll get rid of them, and it’s legal, we’ll do it.”

It’s unlikely that any Mississippi doctors who do provide legal abortions will talk publicly about it – both for fear of legal action and to avoid attracting anti-abortion activists. 

Rob McDuff, an attorney at the , which represented the clinic before it closed this summer, said he does not expect to see prosecutions of medical providers for performing abortions under the law’s exceptions. 

“I fully expect that state officials will allow professionals to use their best judgment in the difficult situations they will encounter, and I don’t think those doctors and nurses will be prosecuted,” he said. “If any are, we stand ready to defend them without charge, just as we will defend any others who are arrested for abortion-related crimes.”

Mississippi is one of a handful of states that bans abortion but has an exception for rape. There is no exception for incest. 

Michele Goodwin, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine and an expert in reproductive rights, said that exceptions for rape and incest can serve a political purpose without actually ensuring victims have access to abortion.

“Lawmakers get to satisfy part of their base that is skeptical about their anti-abortion lawmaking, or they get to say, ‘We put into the law these exceptions,’ hoping that people won’t pay close attention,” Goodwin said. “But if you unpack what that looks like, those burdens are inordinate.”

Now that the Pink House is closed, Mississippians’ nearest options for a legal abortion are in Florida, where it is permitted up to 15 weeks of pregnancy, or southern Illinois, where the town of Carbondale has become an access point for people living in ban states across the South and Midwest. 

When lawmakers added an exception for rape to Mississippi’s pre-Roe abortion ban in 1966, they considered requiring a local judge to first certify that a rape had taken place. But they rejected that idea on the grounds that it embarrasses victims.

The exception now requires victims to file “a formal charge of rape … with an appropriate law enforcement official.”

Forensic nurses told Mississippi Today that they’re also concerned about leaving their patients’ ability to access a medical procedure in the hands of law enforcement.

Nationally, only about a third of sexual assaults are reported to . And only about a sixth of those reports result in arrests. 

In the vast majority of rape cases, the victim knew the assailant, so filing a police report could have life-altering consequences. 

Fear of retaliation, the belief that police won’t help them, and considering the assault a personal matter are among the reasons people choose not to report, according to Department of Justice statistics.

Chance Lovern, a nurse at the Ochsner Rush emergency room in Meridian, said his experience aligns with the national data: Most of the patients he has worked with knew their attacker. 

The sexual assault exams he performs are careful and detail oriented. Patients stand on a sheet to change so any physical evidence can be collected. Nurses document physical injuries like bruises and fractures, and perform vaginal and anal swabs for DNA. At every stage, a patient can ask to stop or skip part of the exam. 

He asks victims if they have contacted the police, but he never urges them to do so.  

“It’s a traumatizing event already,” he said. “It’s going to be their decision in the long run if they want to.”

Alizbeth Eaves, one of the state’s few certified sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE) and the trauma and SANE program manager at Ochsner Rush in Meridian, said the language of the rape exception is also unclear. What constitutes “a formal charge?” Is it simply filing a police report, or does someone have to be charged with the ?

She recently saw a 16-year-old who had been raped by her uncle starting when she was 14 years old. The teenager’s father caught his brother in the act and called the police. But when they arrived, they initially refused to arrest the uncle.

“The investigator says, ‘She’s 16, it’s consensual, there’s nothing we can do,’” Eaves said. 

Eventually, the uncle was arrested on two counts of statutory rape, stemming from previous incidents. But it was easy to imagine the case taking a different turn.

“If she had gotten pregnant from that sexual assault that day, and law enforcement refused to press charges because, quote, ‘She was 16 and [it was] consensual,’ she would have been forced to carry that pregnancy, because a formal rape charge would not have been filed because law enforcement wasn’t going to do that,” Eaves said. 

A Mississippi forensic nurse who spoke on the condition of anonymity also said she routinely sees police demonstrate skepticism and even hostility toward victims. She has heard officers ask victims whether they actually wanted to have sex with their assailants and suggest that they should not have been alone with them. 

After the Supreme Court overturned and Mississippi’s trigger ban took effect, Stephanie Piper, sexual assault program manager at the nonprofit Gulf Coast Center for Nonviolence, helped a woman who had become pregnant after unwanted sex get an appointment for an abortion in Florida. Instead of a six-hour round trip drive to Jackson, she had a 10-hour round trip to Tallahassee. 

Stephanie Piper is the sexual assault program manager at the nonprofit Gulf Coast Center for Nonviolence, serving victims of sexual violence on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

In that case, the woman knew the man who impregnated her and had previously had consensual sex with him. She had no interest in filing a police report. 

“She was scared if she didn’t have sex with him something worse was going to happen,” Piper said. “In my eyes that’s a sexual assault. If she came forward to law enforcement and said everything I just said, they’re probably not going to go forward with the case.”

Lovern, a native of Philadelphia, Miss., grew up in the Pentecostal church, surrounded by opposition to abortion. His work as a nurse has changed his perspective, introducing him to situations where abortion was medically necessary. And he can see how carrying a pregnancy to term could change a sexual assault victim’s life forever. 

“I’m not saying that they wouldn’t love their child any differently, but it’s always going to bring back a physical presence of that assault,” he said. 

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

5 reasons lawmakers might not want to restore the ballot initiative


5 reasons lawmakers might not want to restore the ballot initiative

Mississippi is the only state in the modern era to rescind its initiative process that allowed voters to bypass the Legislature and place issues directly on the ballot.

In 2021 the ruled unconstitutional the signature-gathering process as spelled out in the Constitution to place issues on the ballot. The ruling resulted in a initiative approved by voters in November 2020 and the entire initiative process being found to be invalid.

The Legislature could not agree during the 2022 session on language to revive the initiative process.

If the Legislature did restore the initiative, there would be at least five issues that could be the subject of initiative efforts. Those five issues, all opposed by many of the state’s political leaders, might be the reason legislators are reluctant to revive the initiative.

Those five initiatives would:

  • Expand .
  • Allow early .
  • Approve recreational marijuana.
  • Restore rights.
  • Allow people convicted of felonies to regain their voting rights at some point after they complete their sentence.

No doubt, there are other issues that most likely would be the subject of initiative efforts if the process was restored. Generally, initiatives are undertaken when legislators refuse to act on issues, such as on medical marijuana recently and on voter identification in 2011.

Medical marijuana was being rejected by the Legislature as a whole. In 2011, one chamber of the Legislature – the Democratic-controlled House – was blocking the enactment of a voter ID requirement.

Just like with medical marijuana and voter ID, the five issues cited above are currently being blocked by key legislators.

Medicaid expansion

Mississippi is one of 12 states that have not expanded Medicaid to provide health insurance for primarily the working poor. The two biggest obstacles to Medicaid expansion have been House Speaker Philip Gunn and Gov. Tate Reeves, who argue the state cannot afford to cover Mississippi’s share of the costs. Various studies have concluded that the expansion would actually be a boon to state coffers since the federal government would pay the bulk of the costs.

Various diverse groups ranging from the Mississippi Hospital Association to the Delta Council have endorsed expansion.

Early voting

Despite the rhetoric of former and many of his supporters bemoaning the evils of early voting, 46 states allow no excuse early voting and 27 permit voting by mail. And most states were allowing the various forms of early voting long before the 2020 election and the COVID-19 pandemic.

And truth be known, early voting has long been popular. Still, Reeves and other Mississippi politicians proudly proclaim they will block any effort to place Mississippi within the mainstream of states by enacting no excuse early voting.

Recreational marijuana

Like with early voting and Medicaid expansion, there was a recreational marijuana initiative being considered when the Mississippi Supreme Court shut down the initiative process.

And granted, it might be a long shot that Mississippi voters would approve recreational marijuana. But marijuana supporters in Arkansas garnered significantly more signatures than needed to place the issue on the November ballot.

If Arkansans approve or come close to approving recreational marijuana in November, that could be a sign that Mississippians also are willing to consider the issue.

Felony suffrage

Mississippi is one of a few states (less than 10) that do not restore voting rights to people convicted of felonies at some point after they complete their sentence. The felony suffrage provision was incorporated into the 1890 Constitution by those attempting to prevent African Americans from voting.

Voters in Florida recently voted via ballot initiative to restore voting rights to people convicted of felonies.

Abortion rights

Granted, it has long been perceived that Mississippians as a whole are staunchly anti-abortion. But after the June ruling by the in the Mississippi decision – Dobbs v. – overturning and rescinding a national right to an abortion, there has been a hue and cry by some to let Mississippians vote on the issue. After all, people who support abortion rights figure they have nothing to lose since existing Mississippi laws ban most abortions.

And there are a few reasons to give abortion rights supporters hope. For instance, in Kansas, a conservative state like Mississippi, voters recently rejected an anti-abortion proposal at the ballot box.

In addition, when Mississippians voted on abortion in 2011, they overwhelmingly defeated the “Personhood” initiative that defined life as beginning at conception. Plus, recent polling indicates that a vote on abortion in Mississippi might be close.

But unless the Legislature restores the initiative, we may never know how Mississippians feel about these issues and others.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Should Mississippi, like Kansas, vote on abortion?


Should Mississippi, like Kansas, vote on abortion? Would the outcome differ?

In Mississippi, like Kansas, the Supreme Court has said the state Constitution provides a right to an .

The Kansas Supreme Court made its ruling in 2019. The Mississippi ruling came in 1998.

In an effort to supersede the Kansas Supreme Court ruling, the Legislature placed on the ballot a proposal to proclaim that the state Constitution does not include abortion rights.

That proposal was defeated Tuesday by Kansas voters by a 59% to 41% margin, meaning abortion remains legal in the state viewed as one of the most conservative in the nation.

Mississippi’s Supreme Court ruling said, “While we do not interpret our Constitution as recognizing an explicit right to an abortion, we believe that autonomous bodily integrity is protected under the right to privacy … Protected within the right of autonomous bodily integrity is an implicit right to have an abortion.”

There are two ways to reverse that 1998 Supreme Court ruling. The high court in a new case could overturn it. But since there is no abortion case pending before the Supreme Court, it is difficult to ascertain how such a reversal could occur. Another option would be to attempt what Kansas tried to do and amend the Constitution to state explicitly there is no right to an abortion. Like in Kansas, the proposal to amend the Constitution also would require voter approval.

The question then is whether the outcome in Mississippi would be different than in Kansas. Most observers were surprised that the anti-abortion proposal in Kansas was defeated. attorney Rob McDuff, who has defended abortion rights, said he is not so sure the outcome here would be different than in Kansas.

“Mississippi is a conservative state in many ways, but a lot of people here believe in the rights of the individual and believe government should not dictate a person’s beliefs,” McDuff said. “For centuries, people have debated and disagreed about the fundamental question of when life begins.”

McDuff continued: “When a woman is faced with the possibility of carrying a pregnancy inside her own body and bearing a child against her will, I think most Mississippians believe this is a decision for her to make in light of her own beliefs, and perhaps in consultation with her family and her doctor and her pastor, and not a decision for the majority of the state Legislature. That is what Mississippians said the last time they were asked this question in 2011, when, by a wide margin, they voted no on an amendment that would have banned abortion for purposes of our state Constitution. I expect the answer would be the same today. Recent polling in Mississippi bears that out.”

A recent poll commissioned by the ACLU of Mississippi found 51% opposed the overturning of that provided a national right to an abortion.

In 2012, after Mississippi voters rejected the so-called “personhood” amendment that stated life begins at conception, Speaker Philip Gunn authored a resolution saying abortion was not a constitutional right. That resolution died in the House Constitution Committee. Had it been passed by a two-thirds vote of both legislative chambers and been approved by voters, it would have overturned the 1998 Supreme Court ruling saying the Mississippi Constitution granted the right to an abortion.

Gunn, who was in his first year as speaker in 2012, said recently he did not remember details about the proposal. When asked if the House might take up a similar proposal in the 2023 session, he said, “We are looking at a lot of things.”

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, ignoring the Supreme Court ruling, recently said, “I don’t think we need a constitutional amendment in Mississippi because we have a state statute which speaks to that. The only abortion clinic that operated in our state is now closed, I don’t know that it has to be in the Constitution.”

It’s true that laws banning most abortions in the state went into effect when the overturned the national constitutional right to an abortion in a landmark case from Mississippi. The practical effect of those laws is that abortions are not being performed in Mississippi.

But that 1998 decision hangs out there. At some point, there could be a conflict in the Mississippi judicial system between that constitutional right to an abortion as cited by the and the normally lesser-in-the-eyes of the judiciary laws or statutes.

At the very least, by ignoring that Supreme Court ruling, a precedent is being established in the state that the Mississippi Supreme Court can be — well, ignored.

A simple way to resolve the conflict between state law and the Mississippi Constitution is to let the people vote like they did in Kansas.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Mississippi abortion: Four women share experiences


‘This is what happened’: Four Mississippians discuss their experiences with abortion

Mississippi’s last clinic closed on July 6, following the ’s decision overturning and ending the constitutional right to abortion. Abortion is now illegal in the state except in rare cases, and Mississippi doctors believe even people who are pregnant as a result of rape will struggle to access the procedure because physicians will fear potential legal consequences. 

The country’s abortion rate has declined steadily since the early 1990s, but a 2017 study in the American Journal of Public Health found that 24% of American women will have an abortion by the time they are 45.

Mississippi Today spoke with four Mississippians about their abortions and their reactions to the end of legal abortion in Mississippi and other states around the country. 

Rebecca Meador poses for a portrait near her home Monday, July 25, 2022.

Rebecca Meador, 42

Meador got an abortion at the Pink House in 2000. She had recently given up a son for adoption.

I feel a real sense of urgency to tell as many people as possible: This is what happened. And it’s not because I just chose to end a pregnancy. It’s because I was in an impossible situation where my life was in danger. It’s just a complex set of issues that I think a lot of people don’t bother to really consider. 

I was 18 when I found out I was pregnant and 19 when I gave birth. I knew there was no option for me to be able to raise this baby. My first decision was, I’m gonna have to have an abortion. And I was completely devastated. It was like I was living in a fog of despair. The last thing I wanted to do was have an abortion. Then (my manager at work) was like, “you don’t have to have an abortion. You can place the baby for adoption.” That was the first time that clicked with me.

I was so relieved. There was another option. I didn’t have to end this pregnancy in this way. We (the adoptive parents and I) met there at the adoption agency … We just really clicked. So that was a positive experience for me. 

The postpartum depression was very severe. That took several months for me to recover from. I got prescription psych meds for it. Then I was just dealing with the grief of placing Jake (my son). 

I don’t know what they think, that it’s just so easy to grow a person inside your body and give birth to it and give it away? You just go home and have a milkshake and go back to work? Maybe for some women, and probably for some women, it’s not traumatic. Maybe it’s something they’re able to recover from and find a place of mental stability and they move on. But it’s not the case for me. Certainly I don’t think that the agoraphobia and extremes of postpartum depression that I experienced, that’s probably not normal. But it’s probably not extraordinary either. 

There are a lot of reasons why people cannot just place a baby for adoption. It’s not like returning a book to the library. It’s a really big deal.

Finding myself in the place of being pregnant again (in 2000)… looking back on it now, I’m 42, and I have so much sympathy for myself (then) and so much love for myself. I really just was pretty psychologically broken, as it relates to how to have a healthy regard for valuing my own sexuality and, like, saying no and not being in that kind of a relationship. I just didn’t have those skills back then. I just was not in that place. I didn’t have health insurance. I didn’t have prescription birth control all the time.

I was living in Starkville. I went to the library and got a Jackson phone book. I looked in the Yellow Pages under abortion. 

There was a girl that was in (the clinic) with me that I went to high school with. That was notable to me. We weren’t really close. We were acquaintances … In a way it was nice to see a face that I knew but also in a way it was a little awkward. Like oh, we’re both in here. We’re both doing this. But you know, we really just each kept to ourselves. We smiled and said hello to each other. 

I think that’s another thing that people who are (anti-abortion) don’t really understand or think about. Nobody that gets an abortion is like skipping and jumping – “tralalalala, I’m getting an abortion today.” That’s not happening. Nobody shows up to the abortion clinic having the best day of their life. This is, like, the worst thing ever. And it is shameful, especially in Mississippi and it’s embarrassing for a lot of people. And it’s so personal and so private and then so to see somebody that you went to high school with in a way is like – no! This is the last thing that I want to, like, share with my high school buddy.

But it was also a little bit comforting. This weird double-edged sword. Oh, there’s somebody I know in there. We’re all having the worst day of our lives. 

I sent (a written version of my story) to every member of the state Legislature. Every member of the House and every member of the Senate, and I also sent it to the governor’s office and the ’s office. And I also sent it to the offices of the chancery court where the was. I heard back from two people, just one-sentence emails that I got back. They were both like, “I agree. And a woman’s body is her choice.” 

I was at First Presbyterian Church in Jackson the Sunday after the Supreme Court decision came out, and David Strain, who is the lead pastor there, during the pastoral prayer before the sermon, he was rejoicing and praising God for the decision that there wouldn’t be any more baby murders. Basically called me a baby murderer. He didn’t call me by name of course. But I just got up and went out. It was too much for me to process. I was just trying to be at church, and was getting called a baby murderer. 

I don’t know how to not talk about it. If I don’t talk about this, these people who think they know how to legislate women and legislate – they don’t get it. We have real struggles going on in our lives. 

Sonnie Bane, 30 

Sonnie Bane poses for a portrait outside of the Jackson Women’s Health Organization in Jackson, Miss., Wednesday, July 6, 2022. The clinic must stop providing abortions after a judge refused to block the state’s trigger law from taking effect.

Bane got an abortion at the Pink House in late 2016. 

I was in a very long-term, six-year, seven-year abusive relationship. It was just not something that I wanted. It’s not like I was trying to get pregnant. It just happens. It wasn’t the easiest decision for me to make. I am very pro-choice, always have been, but when it is you, it just feels a little bit different sometimes. I’m very proud of my decision.

Coming here, I’ve known a lot of the escorts and the clinic workers for a long time, like Ms. Derenda (Hancock, one of the founders of the volunteer clinic escort service) is like one of my biggest idols. I just trusted her enough to guide me through the process. She helped me get the information for any funding. I got help from one of the people that are local here (the Mississippi Reproductive Freedom Fund). 

There were so many people out on the streets whenever I was coming up here for every single visit. This was like six years ago. They always said the Pink House is an island on its own. The protesters definitely made it feel like it. 

This place really just saved my life. I was not ready. I was not in a good place. It would not have been a healthy relationship to have kids. I do eventually want one. But I wouldn’t be the same person, and I love who I am today. I have a great job, I have a good relationship, everything is just aligning. And if I didn’t do that … I don’t think I would still be here. 

I also found out that I was Rh negative (a blood cell status that can affect pregnancy) here, and I didn’t know that previously. This place has done so much for me. I got birth control here for years.

I feel like my dog has more rights than me now. It’s my body. I don’t think anybody should tell me what I can and can’t do.

It’s not like there are just countless women that are out here getting pregnant and doing it for fucking fun. Excuse my language. I don’t know anybody that would want to do this for fun. It’s hard. 

I did the pill, and I was in pain for four hours. No, it’s not fun. For some women, it is their only option. I don’t know anybody’s situation. I can’t say that they are wrong or anything no matter how many times they get an abortion. Everybody’s different. 

A., mid-20s

A. got a medication abortion at the Pink House in early June 2022, about a month before the clinic closed. Mississippi Today granted A. anonymity at her request.

I’m young, and I already have children. I’m a single mother. And it’s already basically hard for me. I’ve barely got my head above water, with the high gas prices, and basically we’re in a recession, they just don’t want to admit it … I think it would be selfish to bring another child into this world and I’m knowing that I’m not able, physically or emotionally or mentally.

And you have some people who just don’t want children. It’s not a sin not to want children. You have some people who may get raped or just in some type of situation where they can’t have a child right now. It’s really a good thing what they’re doing in there. But you got some people who don’t care. They’d rather you have a child. No matter how much they stand outside and say we can help you, they don’t really care about you. They don’t. They just want you to have a child just so it won’t be on their conscience.

I knew I couldn’t go through (pregnancy and delivery) again. I have three. One deceased, two still living. I knew that I couldn’t do it again.

I actually want to get my tubes tied. I said to (my doctor), “I wanna get my tubes tied.” He said, “What if you wanna get married and have more kids?” It’s like, “who said I want to get married?

“I’m going to be firm: We just need to schedule a date. I don’t care about what you think. This is not about you. This is about me.”

I would go (if the nearest clinic were in southern Illinois). Having to take off work, get finances in order, however I would have got there, find a hotel, get my kids situated. It would have made it 10 times harder. 

Even if (the anti-abortion protesters) do help, it’s not long term. They’re not gonna be able to help you with housing, childcare. Where I work now, I make $15 an hour. It’s still not enough. If I didn’t have this health insurance, there is no way I can go out and afford health insurance. That health insurance, it’s full of crap too. It’s barely enough. For a consultation at the dentist, I still had to pay $100 out of pocket.

We all sin every day. Some people think whatever they do, God worships the ground they walk on.

Kavi, 30

Photo courtesy of Kavi.

Kavi ended a pregnancy in Iowa when she was 19. She now lives in Mississippi. 

I was 19. I was in my sophomore year of college. I was in a really bad place in that I was in a very abusive relationship, I was becoming estranged from my family, I was in active addiction and alcoholism. And so there were a million and one reasons why my period would have been late. To top it off I had some spotting in between when I was pregnant and it just seemed normal. There was nothing that really tipped me off that I was pregnant until I started feeling, like, morning sickness. So I decided to go in and get checked when I was having a particularly bad bout of spotting. So I went into Planned Parenthood. 

And they were able to do an exam and found out that I was pregnant, but the fetus was not viable, like there was no heartbeat, and the tissue was starting to decompose and that’s what my discharge and spotting was. 

And it was just a messy day. I went in thinking that they would give me a pap smear or something and send me on my way.

I was really lucky in that it was not a very busy Planned Parenthood or a very busy day for them. So I was able to talk to a doctor right away … I was given the medication for a medication abortion that day along with antibiotics, and I think anti-inflammatory pills. 

I did not feel any judgment from the clinic workers or anybody. I was very lucky. I was down at the Pink House over the weekend (the first weekend in July, right before it closed)). And seeing all those protesters, the antis, it made me feel so so bad, because I did not have to walk past any of that. I didn’t have to listen to people tell me how terrible of a person I was, for making that choice. 

If it was a viable pregnancy, it’s still the choice that I would have made, because there’s no way that I could have carried a healthy pregnancy as an addict. 

And so what it meant to me was a chance to get out of that abusive relationship, a chance to continue my education, to get clean and sober, to just see the world, to do so many things that … people don’t realize you give up when you start a family or raise a child.

I never really thought of myself as somebody who had gone through that, because I felt like I did not have to make that hard choice … Like I wasn’t somebody who had an abortion. I was somebody that an abortion happened to. 

But when I look at people now, especially in the state of Mississippi, who are losing access to that health care, it breaks my heart, because I know that there are people who start off disadvantaged in the first place, due to poor quality public education, due to underfunding, maybe not the most socioeconomically stable environment. 

One thing that really rubs me the wrong way is when people are saying, you shouldn’t use abortion as birth control. I was using two forms of contraception when I got pregnant. I was using a hormonal method and a barrier method. I know that statistically that is so unlikely but I mean– the pill can be up to (99%) effective, if used exactly properly. Because I had access to primary health care at that point, I had birth control.

I had the ability, the time, the resources and the will to be (at the Pink House for a few days after the ruling) … I needed those anti protesters, those anti-abortionists, to have to look me in the face. I needed them to see that it is affecting people, even if they don’t consider me a person or worthy of consideration.

They needed to see that there are people who will fight for this. That fight’s not done. I will continue. My husband and I are already talking about starting to save up gas money so we can volunteer to be drivers to Pink House West in New Mexico, or to the clinic in Illinois. 

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Neshoba County Fair filled with questions about welfare scandal


Podcast: Neshoba County Fair political speakings filled with fire and brimstone and questions about state welfare scandal

Mississippi Today political reporters Bobby Harrison and Geoff Pender recap what was a more eventful Neshoba County Fair political speakings than what normally occurs in off-election years. A lot of the talk centered around the overturn of Roe v. Wade and questions from the media about the ongoing scandal that has engulfed the Mississippi Department of Human Services.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Mississippi abortion law: Reddit AMA recap


Reddit AMA recap: What’s next for Mississippi after Roe?

On Friday, July 22, community health reporter Isabelle Taft answered questions on Reddit about the future of , reproductive rights and in Mississippi after SCOTUS overturned Roe v. Wade and Mississippi’s trigger law was put into effect.

Click to jump to a specific question:

Q: What other medical procedures will be impacted by the change (examples being miscarriages or IVF), and how will they be affected?

A: It’s not completely clear.

Right now, IVF is going on as usual in Mississippi, but I spoke with a doctor earlier this month who is concerned about the future. Defining fertilization as the beginning of life, which the personhood amendment the state voted down in 2011 would have done, would create big legal challenges for IVF, which often involves the creation of excess embryos. But Sen. Joey Fillingane, one of the main architects of anti-abortion laws in the state and the author of the abortion trigger ban, told me that enshrining legal protections for IVF and surrogacy is one of his priorities in this area for the next legislative session.

When it comes to miscarriages, I think there will be more consequences. Doctors have told us they’re worried about situations where someone is miscarrying but maybe the fetus still has a heartbeat. Pre-Dobbs, they would perform a D&C to finish the process and stop hemorrhaging. Now, that may be seen as an unnecessary legal risk and you could see hospitals sending people home to wait. (There’s been a lot of reporting about this happening in Texas, for example, which effectively banned abortion in 2021.)

Nationally there’s also been a lot of reporting about people being denied miscarriage management drugs mifepristone and misoprostol by pharmacists because these are also used in medication abortions. I’ve spoken with pharmacists and doctors about this in Mississippi, and anecdotally no one reported a patient being denied a prescription after Dobbs. (Also important to note that we’re not aware of anyone who was prescribing abortion pills in Mississippi before Dobbs besides the Pink House, where more than half of all abortions were medication abortions.)

And a natural miscarriage is not distinguishable from a miscarriage induced by abortion pills. So one possibility is that people who are miscarrying will be more reluctant to go to the hospital if they have complications, because they could be concerned about intrusive questioning and even law enforcement involvement. (I think people’s experiences with this are going to vary drastically based on where they live, the hospital they go to, even who happens to be on shift at a given time.)

Q: What will happen in the case of ectopic pregnancy where the mother will die without an abortion? Asking for both the letter of the law and what you believe will actually happen in practice.

A: In cases like an ectopic pregnancy where it is very clear that the mother could die without an abortion and there is no chance of a live birth, the law clearly allows Mississippi doctors to do what they have done before the ruling in Dobbs: Terminate the pregnancy. I spoke with a doctor in the Delta this week who did exactly that, without any additional calls to attorneys or hospital administrators.

In practice, pregnancy can involve situations that are dangerous or potentially dangerous for the pregnant person but not as clear-cut as an ectopic pregnancy. Those are the situations that doctors I’ve spoken with are more concerned and confused about. Some pre-existing conditions like pulmonary hypertension make pregnancy itself very risky, but the threat to the person’s life isn’t imminent. Before Dobbs, physicians could have a conversation with their patient about the best course of action and the pregnancy could be terminated in Mississippi. Now, those conversations and choices come with the possibility of up to a decade in prison of a doctor winds up being criminally investigated.

Here’s a story from this week that goes into what doctors are thinking about this issue.

Q: Who determines if an abortion would save the life of the mother? Is it the state or would a doctor be able to determine that?

A: The state’s trigger law isn’t crystal clear on the point of who makes the decision that a person’s life is at risk, and how they’re supposed to make that decision. This is what it says: “No abortion shall be performed or induced in the State of Mississippi, except in the case where necessary for the preservation of the mother’s life or where the pregnancy was caused by rape.”

In practice, that determination is going to fall to doctors around the state, likely in some cases in consultation with hospital attorneys and ethics boards. In some cases, like ectopic pregnancies, the legal standard will be pretty clearly met. In others, it won’t be, and doctors may choose not to perform an abortion where previously they would had a conversation with the patient about what to do.

The over Louisiana’s abortion ban is ongoing, but one physician filed an affidavit explaining how the ban affected their work when it was briefly in effect earlier in July. A patient’s water broke at 16 weeks, and the patient wanted the doctor to perform a dilation & evacuation (D&E) to quickly end the nonviable pregnancy. There was no chance that the pregnancy result in a live birth, but the hospital’s attorneys told the doctor she couldn’t perform an abortion. Instead, the patient delivered the fetus naturally, which took hours and also caused her to hemorrhage a liter of blood.

Unlike Mississippi’s ban, Louisiana law includes an exception for “medically futile” pregnancies, but the law also says the state health department is supposed to issue a list of what qualifies as “medically futile,” and it hasn’t done so yet. But that exception should give doctors there more discretion than in Mississippi, where terminating a nonviable pregnancy is legal only if not doing so threatens the pregnant person’s life.

Q: Can a pro-life activist sue a doctor or hospital for performing a life-saving abortion if they feel the mother wasn’t in mortal danger? And how would this threat affect the quality of healthcare across the state?

A: To your question about the possibility of lawsuits, I think it’s too early to say for sure what will happen in Mississippi because all of this is so new. Some OB/GYNs we’ve talked to expressed concern and confusion over the possibility of being sued by someone who believes an abortion wasn’t necessary to save the life of the mother. They don’t appear to be getting guidance on this from any agency or their employers.

In Arizona, a woman’s ex-husband established an estate for her terminated embryo and filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the clinic that performed her abortion years ago.

Q: Can legally force a pregnancy test on a woman they suspect is traveling to have an abortion? Can they detain that woman until she gives birth or dies?

Can state law enforcement legally use data from mobile devices to extrapolate if a woman might be seeking an abortion, then target that woman for investigation? Would a compiled list of these women be used legally as a function of abortion law enforcement?

A: I’m going to group your questions about police forcing pregnancy tests and using mobile data because they’re related to the broader uncertainty over how these laws will actually be enforced.

Mississippi law doesn’t have any provision saying a person may not travel out of state to seek an abortion, and the trigger ban specifies that police can’t prosecute a woman for her own abortion. So it would not be legal to detain someone on the suspicion that they were going to travel out of state for an abortion.

I think it’s pretty unlikely that law enforcement would use mobile data proactively to try to surveil for a potential abortion attempt in this way, especially because the trigger law says you can’t prosecute a woman for her own abortion. I do think that when police get a report of a possible illegal abortion (say if a woman comes to a local hospital with complications), we’re likely to see search warrants for mobile data as part of their investigation. This notably happened in the Latice Fisher case in Starkville a few years ago. She said she gave birth to a stillborn baby, and police found that she had searched for abortion pills and used that as part of the murder case against her, even though there was no evidence she had actually taken them. Charges were dropped after local and national advocates raised questions about the dubious test that had been used to claim her baby was born alive. Here’s a Washington Post story about the case and its national implications post-Roe.

Q: Hello Isabelle, do you expect the Mississippi Legislature to continue to restrict abortions in Mississippi (as in removing the exception for rape or life of the mother)? Additionally, has [Philip] Gunn clarified his thoughts on IVF and its continued legal status considering his belief that life begins at conception?

A: I don’t want to make any overconfident predictions but I do expect there will be discussion of further abortion restrictions next session. I think there is going to be appetite for strengthening laws against abortion pills, though I’m not sure what that will look like in practice because the state can’t police people’s mail and the pills are easy enough to order online from places where they are legal. That issue is clearly front of mind for anti-abortion folks in Mississippi, especially after billboards advertising abortion pills went up around Jackson. This is from an email that Pro-Life Mississippi sent out yesterday:

“Billboards are becoming the new battleground against the abortion industry. New billboards promoting abortion pills have appeared in Richland and Jackson… The Mississippi ’s Office is working on a coordinated response to these types of deceptive advertisements that could result in harming women with dangerous medication.”

(Note that medication abortion has been in wide use around the world for decades with a very low rate of complications, including when used at home without formal medical supervision.)

I don’t know if there will be a push to remove the exceptions but I haven’t heard anything to that effect. It’s worth noting that doctors told us that they don’t expect anyone in Mississippi will be willing to perform abortions in cases of rape, given the legal risks, so that exception may effectively already be moot.

To my knowledge, Gunn hasn’t clarified his stance on IVF. I would be surprised if there is any effort to do anything that would affect IVF: Sen. Fillingane, who authored the abortion ban, actually wants to pass legislation to make clear that IVF and surrogacy are protected in Mississippi. (He fathered twin sons via surrogacy last year so this issue is close to him.) And I think it’s important to note that people who use IVF are generally people with means and access to channels of political influence. I don’t see commitment to the idea of life beginning at fertilization leading lawmakers to pursue laws that would constrain IVF.

Q: Do you think there is any risk of people getting arrested for using drugs off-label for abortion? What precautions can they take? What are good resources for them?

Also, is it a legitimate worry that MS residents may not be able to travel out of state to get an abortion?

A: To your first set of questions, I don’t want to make too many predictions because I think it’s still unclear how law enforcement will seek to carry out these new laws. With 82 different counties, I think we’re going to see a lot of variability in how police and DAs operate and how aggressive they are in investigating and punishing abortions. The trigger ban says a person can’t be prosecuted for their own abortion. In pre-Roe Mississippi, women were not often prosecuted for their abortions but were frequently pressured to testify against doctors and others who had been involved in the abortion. The use of abortion pills is going to be really tough for state authorities to regulate because it’s so easy to obtain them from overseas providers like Aid Access– who would Mississippi authorities prosecute?

This story looks at abortions and prosecutions in MS before Roe:

And this one discusses access to abortion pills and why the state will struggle to control it:

I don’t know what we might see in the next legislative session. I do know the pro-life lawmakers I have spoken with have said they’re not interested in trying to restrict Mississippians’ travel out of state, and Justice Brett Kavanaugh – who joined the majority to overturn Roe – wrote that he would find such a law unconstitutional. But it’s definitely true that many Mississippians won’t be able to travel to obtain an abortion for logistical reasons. Advocates expect the closest clinic will ultimately be in Carbondale, Illinois, a six to seven-hour drive from Jackson. (Currently, clinics in Louisiana and Florida are providing abortions.)

Q: Concerning reproductive health: do you think the state government will now create/enact legislation to make it harder for people to obtain birth control (specifically Plan B or any other estrogen-type pill form of birth control obtained via prescription)?

A: From what I have heard from lawmakers and anti-abortion advocates, there are not plans to do this or push for it.

Q: As a woman who was considering children and is now leaning towards sterilization due to the unacceptable risk involved in Mississippi, do you foresee more Mississippi women making that choice instead of building families going forward? We already have a brain drain problem, so do you think we’ll see even more of us younger folks moving to states with safer healthcare access?

All I have are anecdotal experiences on this, but a lot of my female friends have been pursuing sterilization and long-term contraceptive methods much more actively since the ruling–one has already scheduled a hysterectomy out of state by a doctor willing to perform it (notoriously hard to get when you’re a young woman with no children).

So along those lines, do you think we will be seeing bans on women’s contraceptives? I doubt we’ll see bans on condoms, but plan B and birth control pills could end up on the chopping block given how uneducated people tend to be on how those actually work.

A: One OB/GYN we spoke with mentioned she’s experienced an uptick in requests for tubal ligations since the Dobbs ruling. She also has concerns about the fate of certain emergency contraception, including IUDs, and it’s only reasonable to think other Mississippians might share that concern. Gov. Tate Reeves and other state leaders have said publicly they will not be targeting contraception, but have not specified what they do and do not consider contraception – despite our repeated questioning.

I also spoke recently with Terri Herring, the head of Choose Life Mississippi and a powerful anti-abortion advocate in the state. She said she doesn’t plan to advocate for restrictions on any pregnancy prevention measures, and she includes IUDs in there.

Q: I’ve seen that Google can help police track internet searches for abortions and how to get one. What safety factors do Mississippians need to consider when trying to figure out how to access abortion?

A: I haven’t done any reporting on this topic so I’ll refer you to this general guide from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit that defends civil liberties on the internet.

Q: Is Mississippi one of the states that are not allowing women with certain diagnoses, for example, rheumatoid arthritis to be able to obtain prescriptions such as methotrexate for their health? (I’ve read Methotrexate and a few other prescriptions have been denied in some states since the overturn because the medication can potentially be used for abortion.)

A: I have not talked to a lot of pharmacists, but the handful I’ve spoken to have said they haven’t heard of this happening in our state. I haven’t heard from any doctors about patients being denied their prescriptions either. If anyone has direct experience with this please send me an email (!

Q: Also if you do cross state lines for abortion care what will happen if you come back into the state?

A: This is a great question. Abortion complications are rare so for most people, nothing will happen.

If you do have a complication and go to a hospital to get treatment, the hospital is legally required to report the complication to the Health Department. (We recently obtained the annual reports on these complications for 2015-2020, and most years 0 complications were reported. In two years, there were four complications each, all non-fatal.) The complication reporting form doesn’t ask for the patient’s name, SSN, DOB or anything like that, but it does ask for details like age, race, marital status and previous pregnancy outcomes.

After the ruling in Dobbs, Ochsner, which operates some hospitals in , reminded staff that they are required to report abortion complications to the health department.

I don’t know what kinds of decisions hospitals and medical staff will make as to when/whether to involve the police in a situation like that.

Biloxi police told Gautama Mehta of the Sun Herald that if they get a report of a possibly illegal abortion, which is a felony, their understanding is that they are required to investigate it.

The next Reddit AMA:

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

GOP politicians embrace God, shun Medicaid postpartum coverage


GOP politicians embrace God but shun Medicaid postpartum coverage at Neshoba

NESHOBA COUNTY FAIR — Lynn Fitch told Neshoba County fairgoers that God chose a Mississippi case to be the catalyst to overturn the national right to an .

“God selected us,” Fitch said on Thursday, referring to the Supreme Court decision in late June overturning . “We were chosen to go before the United States Supreme Court.

“God selected the Mississippi case. God put us in this position.”

Numerous politicians on Thursday during the second day of the political speakings on a hot and humid day at the historic Neshoba County Fair evoked God, particularly as it related to the Mississippi abortion case, Dobbs v. . That landmark case, argued before the by Fitch’s office, led to the overturning of a national right to an abortion. Fitch received a rousing ovation at the end of her speech under the tin-roof Founders Square Pavilion.

Fitch and multiple other statewide officials who spoke at the Neshoba County Fair said their next focus is to ensure the mothers and children impacted by the reversal of Roe v. Wade have the support they need.

But they offered few specifics. Even before the reversal of Roe, the state already had the nation’s highest infant mortality rate and the most children per capita living in poverty.

Gov. Tate Reeves and House Speaker Philip Gunn pointed out that the Legislature provided $3.5 million in tax credits to help support 37 pregnancy crisis centers across the state. Both Gunn and Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, who presides over the Senate, have formed or will form special committees to further study the issue. They have referenced continuing efforts to improve the state’s long-beleaguered foster care system and said changes in law are needed to make adoptions easier.

But other than Hosemann, no officeholder has endorsed any specific policy that would accomplish the shared goal of helping mothers and children. Earlier this year, Hosemann was among several Senate Republicans who supported extending coverage for one year for mothers after giving birth. According to Reeves, 70% of all women giving birth in Mississippi are on Medicaid, but under state law that coverage only lasts 60 days.

When asked about whether the state should expand postpartum coverage on Thursday, Fitch at first mistakenly responded that she couldn’t talk about the issue because it was “pending litigation.” After it was pointed out that no pending litigation existed on the topic, she then said her office would not push for the policy change, but would uphold whatever law may be passed in the future by lawmakers.

House Speaker Philip Gunn said he would consider providing postpartum coverage if the Division of Medicaid, overseen by Reeves, said it was needed.

Reeves did not answer when asked after his fiery speech whether he would support expanding postpartum coverage.

READ MORE: Doctors asked Speaker Philip Gunn to extend health coverage for moms and babies. Then he blocked it.

Andy Gipson, the commissioner of Department of Agriculture and Commerce, previously served in the state House and played a key role in passing the law that led to the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

When asked after his speech whether he would support an expansion of postpartum coverage, Gipson said he supported private insurance. When it was pointed out that Mississippi had the nation’s highest infant mortality rate, Gipson’s wife, Leslie, who was listening, offered the possibility of a correlation between the high infant mortality rate and the state’s vaccine mandates for infants.

“It is worth looking at,” Gipson concurred, declining to cite any scientific data that suggests such a correlation exists. Gipson, who said he intends to run for re-election, touted what he said was the state’s conservative principles.

Gipson, Gunn and Reeves spoke of national Democrats trying to replace God with their liberal agenda.

“We will never stop fighting for our traditional values,” Reeves said. “We will never stop fighting for our way of life.”

Reeves said national liberal Democrats are working to “have drag shows and teach ” in the . He was referencing the efforts on the national level to ensure people with different sexual identities or orientations are not discriminated against and of efforts in some schools to teach the impact racism has had on the history of the country.

Among the accomplishments that Gunn cited for the House under his Republican leadership was legislation enacted into law to give businesses the right not to serve same sex couples based on religious principles.

They also took aim at people who they claimed were not working and were receiving taxpayer dollars.

“We believe all able-bodied folks ought to get off the couch and go to work,” Gipson said to rousing applause. He said taxpayers should not subsidize people who will not work.

“This is why we oppose Medicaid expansion,” said Gipson, ignoring studies that indicate most of the people who receive coverage — and no cash benefits — from Medicaid expansion are the working poor.

Of course, those nuances were not addressed Thursday at the Neshoba County Fair, where both the political speeches and the weather were hot.

READ MORE: After lawmakers go home without extending postpartum Medicaid, six moms speak out

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Senate asks public to comment about needs of women and children


Senate committee asks public to comment about needs of Mississippi women and children

A committee Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann created to study the needs of women, children and families in the wake of rights being overturned has scheduled four hearings and wants written input from the public.

Hosemann said on Thursday the bipartisan, nine-member Senate Study Group on Women, Children and Families will hold hearings at the Capitol on September 27 and 28, and on October 25 and 26. The hearings will be webcast, archived and open to the public.

The public is invited to email written testimony to The comments will be presented to the full committee.

House Speaker Philip Gunn last month also announced he was creating a similar committee — the Speaker’s Commission on the Sanctity of Life — to address post-Roe needs for services in Mississippi. He has not announced its membership or hearings, and his office did not immediately respond to a request for an update on Thursday. Gunn had said his commission will include lawmakers, experts and advocates making recommendations to the House for policies to help women’s and children’s wellbeing.

Republicans Hosemann, Gunn and Gov. Tate Reeves have praised the ’s decision on a Mississippi case that overturned the decades-old Roe v. Wade decision providing women abortion rights. But the three said the decision also requires Mississippi leaders to provide more resources to help mothers, children and families.

Mississippi, the poorest state in the nation, suffers from lack of prenatal, postnatal and all other forms of . It also has the highest infant mortality rate in the nation and one of the highest maternal rates. It has for years faced federal court decrees to address its substandard foster care and children’s services system.

The Senate committee will be chaired by Sen. Nicole Boyd, a Republican from Oxford.

“May people have personal stories about these topics and written testimony provides and opportunity to share them with study group members and the Senate,” Boyd said in a statement. “We are also encouraging legislators to reach out to their constituents and hold public hearings in their districts before the study group hearing dates in the fall.”

Hosemann said: “Testimony primarily from state agency heads and experts, and research following these hearings, will aid Stn. Boyd and the study group members in forming policy proposals going into the 2023 legislative session.”

Gunn has steadfastly opposed expansion to cover the working poor, and earlier this year he torpedoed a Senate proposal backed by Hosemann to extend postpartum Medicaid coverage for Mississippi mothers.

Hosemann is the only one of the state’s top three leaders who’s said he’s open to discussion about expanding Medicaid, which would provide the state about $1 billion a year in federal funds to provide health coverage for the working poor. But Gunn said recently when asked about Medicaid and postpartum expansion said, “All of those things you’re mentioning are things that will be on the table” with his new commission.

Topics set for the Senate hearings are:

Sept. 27: Statistical overview and maternal/child healthcare

Sept. 28: Adoption, foster care and child support

Oct. 25: Childcare availability

Oct. 26: Early intervention

Hosemann said additional hearing dates or topics may be added as necessary.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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