American Samizdat

Saturday, January 22, 2005. *

With eight of nine US Supreme Court Justices over 65 and one seriously ill with cancer, much of the country is understandably focused on the possibility that their soon-to-be-appointed replacements will overturn the decision upholding the right to abortion. But in Mississippi, in many ways, Roe has already fallen. Abortion is legal here, of course, as it must be throughout the country while the landmark ruling stands. Yet, for many women, the ability to terminate a pregnancy is out of reach, buried under state laws that make the process unnecessarily difficult, discouraged by a sense of shame enforced by practically every public authority, and inaccessible for many who lack money to pay for it.

With the third-highest teen pregnancy rate in the country, Mississippi's low number of abortions is not an illustration of the 'safe, legal and rare' ideal that many talk about, in which a decline in unwanted pregnancies creates a corresponding drop in abortions. Rather, it is the direct consequence of concerted opposition to abortion from the grassroots to all levels of government.

Such concern for the rights of fetuses does not appear to translate into a commitment to promoting the well-being of the children they may become. The uncomfortable irony for an opposition movement purportedly concerned with saving 'innocent babies' is that restrictions on abortion are associated with worse outcomes for actual babies. Indeed, children fare terribly in Mississippi. The state with arguably the least access to abortion also has the second-highest rate of child poverty in the country, according to the Children's Defense Fund. Mississippi's infant mortality rate--a good indication of the health of both women and children--is the highest in the country. For every 1,000 live births, 10.5 infants under age 1 die in Mississippi. In parts of the impoverished Delta region, that number ranges up to 18. (The national infant mortality rate, by comparison, is 6.8.) 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.

My ironic Bush quote about ending tyranny goes here.
posted by platts42 at 7:11 AM
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