The ACLU of Mississippi paper outlines state officials’ history of negligence against pregnant people, children, and victims of rape


JACKSON, MS. – This week, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Mississippi released a policy paper detailing Mississippi’s continued failures in maternal and reproductive healthcare. The paper outlines state officials’ history of negligence against pregnant people, children, and victims of rape.

The paper reads, “Mississippi is an inherently dangerous place to give birth. Between 2013 and 2016, the average maternal mortality rate was almost twice as high as the national average and over five times as high as in the United Kingdom. Current estimates place the number of additional births at 5,000 – a number for which state officials admit they are vastly unprepared.” The paper cites hospital closures, limited Medicaid coverage, and inadequate physician guidance as life-threatening factors to pregnant Mississippians.

In response to the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Clinic, Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann formed the Senate Study Group on Women, Children, and Families. But so far, the committee has ignored that a large portion of Mississippi women and children live in poverty without adequate access to healthcare and reproductive choices.

In 2016, 21.9% of Mississippi women aged 18 and older lived in poverty, with nearly a third of Black women residents in poverty. While insurance coverage has improved since 2010, about one in six women of childbearing age is still uninsured over a decade later. And between 2016 and 2020, over 60% of all births in Mississippi were covered by Medicaid.

“Even after a “successful” birth, women face mental, physical, and monetary hardships, which the state of Mississippi has failed to provide for by refusing to expand Medicaid. While one might presume that most maternal deaths occur during pregnancy or on the day of delivery, nearly a third occur 43 days to a year postpartum. Mississippi Medicaid only provides coverage up to 60 days postpartum. It’s clear we are missing out on a crucial time gap in which we could prevent more deaths,” said ACLU of Mississippi Policy Counsel Vara Lyons.

“An overwhelming majority of Mississippians agree that the current state legislature is failing to invest in the well-being of women and children. Over three-fourths of Mississippians support the expansion of Medicaid despite Governor Reeves repeatedly going on the record to oppose it. If the legislative committees on improving the state for women and children are not discussing Medicaid coverage as a solution, they are continuing to fail the state,” said ACLU of Mississippi Executive Director Jarvis Dortch.

To read the full paper, click here.