White dudes in Mississippi inexplicably gleeful about breaking ground for an anti-abortion “memorial to the missing” (no, for real). No word on whether they’re helping to dig graves for the 481 Mississippi-born babies who died in 2005 — 65 more than the previous year, as the “pro-life” policies that these smiling men promote take stronger hold. Also no word on whether any of the $10,000 (or more) that they’re raising will be used to actually promote the health of pregnant women or babies. Or even to help buy headstones for the graves of infants born to poor mothers, some of which are currently being marked with metal signs.
According to a national “pro-life” organization, Mississippi governor Haley Barbour, who has pushed a series of anti-choice laws, has made his state “the safest place in America for an unborn child.”
Too bad the same can’t be said for born children, as Mississippi now has the highest infant mortality rate in the country.
Barbour is so “pro-life” that he has made medical care — including pre-natal and children’s health care — harder to get.
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.
Mississippi now has the highest infant mortality rate in the country (and other “pro-life” states in the South aren’t doing much better). In Mississippi, 11.4 babies die per every 1,000 live births (compared to 6.9 per 1,000 nation-wide, as of the last time national data was collected). Alabama, North Carolina and Tennessee. Louisiana and South Carolina also saw increases in infant mortality. To put that in context, Mississippi has an infant mortality rate right around that of Uruguay, Ukraine, Macedonia, and Bosnia & Herzegovina. Mississippi’s infant mortality rate is twice as high as that of Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Singapore, Norway, and a slew of other countries.
Mississippi also has the third-highest teen pregnancy rate in the country. And the second-highest rate of child poverty.
Interestingly, a postelection comparison found that “red” states had higher infant mortality rates than “blue” ones. In general, states that restrict abortion spend far less money per child than prochoice states on services such as foster care, education, welfare and the adoption of children who have physical and mental disabilities, according to a 2000 book by political scientist Jean Reith Schroedel.
Schroedel also found that women in antiabortion states are worse off than their counterparts in prochoice states. They suffer from lower levels of education, higher levels of poverty, and a larger gender gap in earnings. They are also less likely to enjoy mandated insurance coverage for minimum hospital stays after childbirth. Together, the conditions make for an abysmal reality for women in Mississippi, which came in fifty-first in a 2004 ranking of the status of women in the fifty states and Washington, DC, published by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
It’s not a coincidence that the most “pro-life” states are the worst places to be born. There has long been a connection between pro-choice policies and healthy women, healthy families and healthy babies. Healthy women make for healthy babies — and pro-choice policies, which value women’s health, affirm women’s humanity, and embrace women’s general well-being, make for healthy women. It should not surprise us that the same people who fetishize fetal life at the expense of women’s lives don’t really give a damn once that fetus becomes a baby. It shouldn’t surprise us that when states under-value women and consider us incubators unworthy of basic self-determination and control over our own reproduction, that women are less healthy, and children suffer because of it.
The most “pro-life” countries in the world are some of the worst places for women’s and children’s health. The most “pro-life” states in this country are the worst places in the nation for women’s and children’s health. When “pro-life” policies dominate, infant and maternal mortality spikes, women are under-educated, poverty rises, and children go hungry.
But remember: It’s “pro-lifers” who love teh babies. Because, well, they say so.
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