Senate study committee concludes hearings on women, children and families

Published: Oct. 26, 2022 at 7:12 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - There are a lot of questions about whether Mississippi is ready to offer increased support in this post-Roe world.

Lawmakers know it’s a complex question. But they’re trying to collect the information needed to answer it.

With abortions now illegal in Mississippi, there will be a domino effect of changes.

“Our current legal landscape means that we can expect 5,000 more births this year and likely each year after,” explained Anne Cafer with the Center for Population Studies at the University of Mississippi.

WLBT asked the study the state prepared to handle another 5,000 children?

“No, we’ve got to have substantial change,” said committee chair Sen. Nicole Akins Boyd.

“As we sit here today, we’re not ready,” said Senator Brice Wiggins. “But I think that we can be there.”

The Senate committee has heard hours of testimony over the course of four hearings covering a wide range of topics.

“I think that we should have been doing this even during the Roe era,” noted Sen. Rod Hickman. “I think we should have been doing this for a long time. And so I’m excited to take something that made some people seem like a dark place and make something good out of it.”

They’ll now take what they’ve learned and make policy recommendations ahead of the next legislative session. I asked what some of those may look like.

“Postpartum care, we know that the dollars that we invest in women after they have a baby are incredibly important,” explained Sen. Nicole Akins Boyd. “We know that it takes nine months to have a baby for the most part. But we know that that mother needs postpartum care for the year.”

That’s the short-term piece of what they’ve discussed. And the long term, there will be increased needs for children and a support system for them.

“Other states are doing early intervention focus on a cabinet-level position of some kind, we’re not doing that,” said Wiggin. “There’s at least 10 to 12 agencies who all have some kind of connection or dealing with something related to early childhood early intervention. And as you heard from the speakers, that’s not sustainable.”

The House also has a group considering potential policy solutions to better support women and children. The House commission didn’t meet publicly but released what they identified as the “areas of need”. Some of those areas include: increased access to adoption, jobs for moms, and improved child support enforcement.

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