The federal GOP’s social and economic model Mississippi, as some of you know, is one of the more than 20 states with latent abortion bans that would come into effect if Roe v. Wade was overturned. (Although, of course, as Ben Wittes points out, going from abortion being legal in all 50 states to being banned in 15-25 states and more heavily regulated in many of the other states would actually be better for reproductive freedom because…I’m not going to lie to you Marge. Well, goodbye!) And should the Court decline to overturn Roe explicitly, it has also been at the forefront of legislation instituting arbitrary regulations used to harass abortion clinics until they close. Via Barbara O’Brien, however, after fetuses become children are born the state’s interest in them seems to wane somewhat. How did the “pro-life” Mississippi GOP respond to increases in infant mortality? I think you can guess:
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.
Mississippi’s Medicaid director, Dr. Robert L. Robinson, said in a written response that suggesting any correlation between the decline in Medicaid enrollment and infant mortality was “pure conjecture.”
Dr. Robinson said that the new procedures eliminated unqualified recipients. With 95 enrollment sites available, he said, no one should have had difficulty signing up.
As to Ms. Morris’s charge that information efforts had been curbed, Dr. Robinson said that because of the frequent turnover of Medicaid directors — he is the sixth since 2000 — “our unified outreach program was interrupted.” He said it has now resumed.
The state Health Department has cut back its system of clinics, in part because of budget shortfalls and a shortage of nurses. Some clinics that used to be open several days a week are now open once a week and some offer no prenatal care.
The department has also suffered management turmoil and reductions in field staff, problems so severe that the state Legislature recently voted to replace the director.
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.”
Providing further evidence for Barney Frank’s dictum that for Republicans life begins at conception and ends at birth.
(Also at TAPPED.)