Slimantics: A new day? I doubt

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Thin Smith

IIt’s a new day in Mississippi.

Since the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on June 24, which will allow Mississippi to follow through with all legal abortions except eliminating the state, our elected officials the leaders pledged to deal with the consequences of this ban with determination and compassion.

Speaker of the House Philip Gunn and Leader of the Senate, Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann, are setting up committees to address a myriad of issues related to an expected increase in births, especially among poor Mississippians – everything from care prenatal and postnatal services, childcare services, child support, availability for contraception, adoption and foster care.

Hosemann’s nine-member panel, which includes Sen. Angela Turner Ford (D, West Point) will hold the first of four public hearings scheduled for Sept. 27 at the Capitol. All meetings will be available via webcast and archived on the legislature’s YouTube channel.

Gunn did not announce House committee members or schedule meetings.

A large majority of legal abortions in our state are performed on poor mothers, up to 75% by one estimate.

Imagine a state where child care is available and affordable, where adolescent girls have access to free contraception, where a foster care system works effectively to eliminate the effects of poverty that often lead to the separation of children from their family, where uninsured pregnant mothers had access to prenatal care; and postnatal care, where the working poor had access to health care that would support their children as they grew.

Can you imagine?

Until now, all you could do was imagine this stuff.

Ah, but it’s a new day in Mississippi.

Forgive me if I don’t hold my breath. I am skeptical on several points.

First, put a pencil over the measures we are told are being considered. You better work well with big numbers because, if implemented, these changes will cost hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

Where will this money come from? Remember, this year alone the Legislature passed a $420 million income tax cut, five years after the Legislature passed the largest corporate income tax cut in the world. state history, eliminating an additional $240 million in revenue.

The state is now flush with federal COVID-related revenues, but with the current state of the economy and the prospect of a recession, can our state afford those costs when those federal dollars disappear? Unlikely.

Then there is the question of our state’s track record in providing services to the poor. Mississippi already has the highest infant and maternal mortality rate in the country. Just this year, lawmakers again rejected a proposal to extend postpartum Medicaid coverage to 12 months for mothers without health insurance. Mississippi’s poverty rate is among the worst in the country. Schools are still allowed to teach “abstinence-only” sex education. For 11 years, the state stubbornly refused to extend Medicaid to the working poor under the Affordable Care Act.

The state has made it so difficult to qualify for welfare (TANF) that only a fraction of poor Mississippi residents receive benefits. Every year, tens of millions of dollars of funds dedicated to helping poor Mississippians go unspent or – as in the case of the recent TANF scandal – diverted, ending up in the hands of well-connected and wealthy Mississippians, including the former NFL star Bret Favre. It was one of the most shameful episodes in our state’s history, yet there was virtually no public outcry, which I think says a lot about who we really are.

Over the years, if every federal dollar allocated to poor Mississippians had been spent for its intended purpose, thousands upon thousands of Mississippians would have escaped poverty. The money to change lives has always been there. It just wasn’t spent. It is not a coincidence. Those in power in our state despise the poor. They always have.

How can I know?

All of the problems listed above have existed in our state for decades and no one in authority cared enough to do anything about it.

Ah, but now has that changed?

I guess our heads of state made those big promises in the wave of victory that came in the days following the Supreme Court ruling. It’s easy to be magnanimous after a political victory.

I seriously doubt that our legislature has the necessary conviction to go through with it.

When the work of these committees is ignored, diluted or dismissed by the legislature, as it surely will be, we will again be left to our imaginations.

Thousands of babies, mostly unwanted and born into poverty, will be delivered in Mississippi as a result of the Supreme Court ruling. It’s the “new day” you can count on with confidence.

Slim Smith is a columnist and editor for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]

Slim Smith is a columnist and editor for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]

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