a bird and a bottle

From the People Who Brought You Tax Cuts…

Today’s hypocrites of the day are…right wing anti-choicers.

Why? Well, for many reasons, but for one central one today.

Which is this: the wingnuts — the same people who supposedly care oh so much about child health — actually don’t. They care about how good being pro-“life” and pro-child sounds, but not actually about children and families.

Case in point: Mississippi. In Mississippi, where there is 1 abortion clinic in the whole state, and where the governor rode to power on promises of cutting funding for medicaid, infant mortality is on the rise. As the NY Times reported today, the infant mortality rate in Mississippi in 2005 was 11.4 (per thousand births) as compared to a national average of 6.9 and the previous years 9.7. When separated by race, the numbers are even starker: 17 deaths per thousand among Mississippi’s Blacks; around 6 among Whites.

Certainly, many factors can be said to contribute to this rise: obesity and other health problems of the mother being the most obvious. But the most central reason that infant mortality is on the rise in Mississippi and around the south is because medicaid cuts have made it exceedingly difficult for poor women to secure prenatal care.

The Times explains:

[S]ocial workers say that the motivation of poor women is not so simply described, and it can be affected by cuts in social programs and a dearth of transportation as well as low self esteem.

“If you didn’t have a car and had to go 60 miles to see a doctor, would you go very often?” said Ramona Beardain, director of Delta Health Partners. The group runs a federally financed program, Healthy Start, that sends social workers and nurses to counsel pregnant teenagers and new mothers in seven counties of the Delta. “If they’re in school they miss the day; if they’re working they don’t get paid,” Ms. Beardain said.

It’s not only the issue of transportation; in the last few years, changes in Medicaid requirements have made it much more onerous to enroll (and stay enrolled) — a ploy to get people off the state rolls at the expense of their health and that of their children.

In 2004, Gov. Haley Barbour came to office promising not to raise taxes and to cut Medicaid. Face-to-face meetings were required for annual re-enrollment in Medicaid and CHIP, the children’s health insurance program; locations and hours for enrollment changed, and documentation requirements became more stringent.

As a result, the number of non-elderly people, mainly children, covered by the Medicaid and CHIP programs declined by 54,000 in the 2005 and 2006 fiscal years. According to the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program in Jackson, some eligible pregnant women were deterred by the new procedures from enrolling.

One former Medicaid official, Maria Morris, who resigned last year as head of an office that informed the public about eligibility, said that under the Barbour administration, her program was severely curtailed.

“The philosophy was to reduce the rolls and our activities were contrary to that policy,” she said.

The result? fewer women receiving medicaid, more dead babies. Many people — even those who accept the anti-reproductive justice rhetoric — can see that this is bad policy:

Oleta Fitzgerald, southern regional director for the Children’s Defense Fund, said: “When you see drops in the welfare rolls, when you see drops in Medicaid and children’s insurance, you see a recipe for disaster. Somebody’s not eating, somebody’s not going to the doctor and unborn children suffer.”

But not Governor Haley Barbour, who spearheaded these changes, and who had this to say about his stance on abortion:

[I support] Protecting the rights of the unborn. I am pro-life. I have been a national spokesman on this issue and will continue to be an advocate for policies which promote the sanctity of human life.

Yep, he supports policies that protect “the sanctity of human life” alright. But only, that is, until a child is born.


4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I might offer a more complete comment on this later, but for now, I’ll just say this: 11? 11 dead infants in a thousand? What is it, the third world?

Comment by Alon Levy

I think this is exactly the right approach. It makes clear just how hypocritical the so-called “pro-lifers” are and helps situate abortion back in a debate of real values.

Comment by professorplum

Actually, yes, it is in line with third world numbers. As it is, the U.S. is ranked 36th in the world in terms of infant mortality. Its appalling that the richest country in the world spends so little helping its own get a good, healthy start. http://www.geographyiq.com/ranking/ranking_Infant_Mortality_Rate_aall.htm.

Comment by bean

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