Abortion ruling means more and riskier births in Mississippi

GREENWOOD, Miss. — In Mississippi, the place well being officers anticipate 5,000 more births every year because of the Supreme Court ruling upending abortion rights, kids are more prone to die earlier than their first birthday than in some other state.

Mississippi has the nation’s highest fetal mortality rate, highest toddler mortality rate, highest pre-term delivery rate and is in the highest decile of states in maternal mortality. Black moms are almost thrice more prone to die resulting from childbirth than Mississippi’s white girls.

As the state’s Republican leaders led the authorized combat in opposition to abortion, Gov. Tate Reeves stated he would do every little thing in his energy to make Mississippi the “safest state in the nation for an unborn child.”

But entry to pre- and post-natal care has dwindled in Mississippi because the June ruling, making childbirth even more harmful for poor girls and kids. The solely neonatal intensive care unit in the state’s impoverished Delta area closed in July beneath monetary pressures, shifting lifesaving look after unwell or untimely new child infants about two hours away by automotive.

And now the publicly owned Greenwood Leflore Hospital has introduced the everlasting closure of its labor and supply unit, saying it may well’t pay aggressive wages and retain skilled nurses. The space’s girls might want to journey about 45 minutes to present delivery at a hospital.

“If an emergency comes up and somebody lives in Greenwood or out in the country, where are they going to go? That could be a catastrophe,” stated Dr. Mark Blackwood, an OB/GYN based mostly in the Delta.

Another hospital in coastal Mississippi additionally closed its labor and supply unit, and a number of hospital programs are looking for patrons. All face more strain because of the state’s refusal to simply accept Medicaid growth and the billions of federal {dollars} it might present for well being care in the state.

Months after the Dobbs ruling pressured the closure of the state’s final remaining abortion clinic, Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch credited the state’s Republican girls for “leading the cause,” and Reeves celebrated “100 days of protecting babies & dismantling the abortion lie.”

But well being care analysts, medical doctors and pregnant girls are expressing alarm as choices for maternity care disappear.

More than 2.2 million girls of childbearing age dwell in “maternity care deserts” in the U.S., and one other 4.7 million dwell in counties with restricted maternity care entry, in keeping with an Oct. 11 report by March of Dimes, which focuses on maternal and toddler well being. The nonprofit defines maternity care deserts as counties with no hospitals offering obstetric care, no delivery facilities, no OB/GYN and no licensed nurse midwives.

The group offered knowledge to the AP exhibiting that throughout all states, Mississippi has the eighth-highest proportion of such counties, which snake by means of the Delta, an agricultural flatland the place persistent poverty shapes every day life.

Infrequent prenatal visits can enhance dangers to each moms and infants, in keeping with the Kaiser Family Foundation, which tracks well being statistics.

“When parents have to travel further and further distances, they have to miss more work. It costs more money, more gas and more time off,” stated Dr. Anita Henderson, president of the Mississippi Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “Our concern is that the ability for them to get those routine prenatal visits in a timely fashion will go down as well.”

The Greenwood Leflore Hospital, whose slogan is “the right care at the right time,” is warning expectant moms to make preparations to achieve one other hospital as soon as they begin having contractions. Meanwhile, pregnant girls who arrive in a disaster shall be stabilized in the emergency room, and then transferred to a different facility that gives maternity care, hospital spokeswoman Christine Hemphill stated.

Greenwood Leflore now directs expectant moms to a hospital about 33 miles (53.1 kilometers) away in Grenada. Brenda Palmertree had two kids there earlier than shifting nearer to Greenwood, and finds it tough to think about driving that far whereas on the verge of giving delivery. “If you go into labor you can’t just stop it. Like, ‘hello, stop for a minute I’ve got to drive 45 minutes.’ It doesn’t work that way,” she stated.

“In terms of pregnancies and deliveries, especially high-risk deliveries or emergency deliveries, we know that minutes matter,” Henderson stated.

Reeves and different Republican leaders have killed many proposals to increase Medicaid primarily to low-income staff whose jobs don’t present personal medical insurance, saying they do not need to encourage reliance on authorities assist for individuals who do not want it.

About 60% of births in Mississippi in 2020 had been financed by Medicaid, the muse discovered — solely Louisiana had a better rate, at 61% — and Mississippi presents the federal minimal of two months of postpartum protection. Advocates for low-income girls say extending that protection might scale back maternal mortality.

But Republican lawmakers killed a invoice in this year’s legislative session that may have let moms hold Medicaid protection for a year after giving delivery. Asked whether or not it might save lives, House Speaker Phillip Gunn stated “that has not been a part of the discussions that I’ve heard.”

Reeves’ office didn’t reply to an Associated Press request for touch upon how his administration plans to handle the latest closure of maternity care items.

Social providers are already strapped in Mississippi, which might be ill-prepared for the implications of bringing an extra 5,000 pregnancies to time period every year, the estimate provided by Dr. Daniel Edney, the state well being officer. Child Protection Services Commissioner Andrea Sanders stated in September that her company may lack the workers to look after more foster kids.

But in the Delta now, suppliers and sufferers have more speedy considerations as OB/GYN providers change into tougher to acquire.

Greenwood Leflore Hospital ceased to function a OB/GYN clinic throughout the road on October 15. The University of Mississippi Medical Center has agreed to function the clinic and the hospital is negotiating a long-term lease for the whole hospital with UMMC.

A nurse at Greenwood Leflore Hospital who requested that her identify not be used as a result of she wasn’t licensed to talk about her employer wonders how the clinic will be capable to function with out a close by supply unit.

“It’s bad. We’re all shocked at their decision. What sense would it make for them to have a clinic and then you have to drive 30-40 miles away?” the nurse stated.

Two obstetricians have already determined to go away the clinic, in keeping with the Greenwood Commonwealth. At least one stated the space between the clinic and the closest supply unit could be an excessive amount of to bear.


Michael Goldberg is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit nationwide service program that locations journalists in native newsrooms to report on undercovered points. Follow him on Twitter at

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