Mississippi 2013 Session Wrap-Up
The 2013 legislative session has ended, and Mississippi’s legislative landscape remains bleak on reproductive health issues, with a majority of members supporting restrictions to reproductive health services that are critical for women and families. During the 2013 legislative session there were attempts to restrict access to family planning services, to further restrict or ban abortion, to specifically target minors’ access to reproductive health care and to regulate pregnant women’s behavior. Personhood legislation was reintroduced, even though it was rejected by Mississippi voters in 2011 with a 16-point margin.
One bill passed that further restricts access to abortion services, yet this session clearly illustrated that many elected officials stand with the women and families of Mississippi, with an increased number of legislators opposing unnecessary restrictions on reproductive health.
There was a fierce battle around expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Governor Phil Bryant actively opposes Medicaid expansion, while Democrats in both chambers are fighting to ensure that low-income families are able to receive health care benefits through this program. Republicans publicly stand in lockstep against the program, however, as more members learn of the serious financial crises that could face hospitals and other providers without expansion, opinions may change.
The Medicaid program, which requires periodic reauthorization, was not reauthorized during the regular session as part of the jockeying around expansion. The Governor must call a special session before the July 1 deadline to protect the entire program from collapse, and it is possible a conversation on expansion could happen at that time.
The Mississippi legislature banned telemedicine for abortion services with the passage of SB 2795. In its original form, SB 2795 would have forced doctors to use an outdated protocol for medication abortion, going against years of research and doctors' practical experience. The bill was heavily amended in the Senate following serious concerns raised by the medical community. Unfortunately the House further amended the bill to include some of the very language rejected by the Senate.
The final version included a telemedicine ban for medication abortion services as well as a requirement that any physician unable to provide potential care for complications must have a contract with a backup physician with admitting privileges at a local hospital.
Abortion Access Restrictions
- Ban on abortion services when heart tones are audible
- Omnibus TRAP bill with a full abortion ban, personhood, restrictions on infertility treatments and additional restrictive provisions
Targeting Pregnant Women’s Behavior
- Chemical endangerment bill that would require prosecuting women who are drug users instead of connecting them with care for their addiction. Prosecuting pregnant women for drug use during pregnancy drives them out of the health care system, making it less likely that they will get the prenatal case they need to have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies.
- Introduction of legislation similar to the “personhood” ballot initiative rejected by Mississippi voters on the November 2011 ballot that asked, “Should the term “person” be defined to include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the equivalent thereof?”
- Multiple bills aimed at restricting in vitro fertilization and infertility treatments, requiring that the transfer of human embryos must be done under the state adoption rules and requiring the terms "minor" and "child," as used in the adoption laws include a human embryo, and other related issues.
Targeting Low-Income Families
- This year there was a marked increase in the number of attempts to restrict access to Medicaid and other public benefits for low-income families through drug screenings, requiring volunteer services and tying state and federal benefits to students’ grades.
Note: As of early May, 2013, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Mississippi’s only abortion provider, remains open following the ruling by a federal judge that the admitting privileges provision from 2012 would potentially create a patchwork of access around the country. The final ruling on this matter will come down from the court in July 2013.
Mississippi’s elected officials should support a health care agenda that puts prevention first to ensure all Mississippians have access to the
information and services they need to stay healthy.
What Can You Do To Help?
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Planned Parenthood’s Action Network
Legislative Contact:Felicia Brown-Williams • 601.592.3500 • Felicia.Brown-Williams@ppfa.org