UNITED STATES NEWS

Mississippi governor touts ‘culture of life’ with new laws

Apr 19, 2023, 1:06 PM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said bills he signed Wednesday are designed to improve foster care, speed up adoptions and help private organizations provide aid to pregnant women in the state that brought the U.S. Supreme Court case that upended abortion rights nationwide.

“Mississippi has moved to the next phase in our pursuit to build a culture of life,” Republican Reeves said during a signing ceremony. “That phase is the new pro-life agenda. … This next phase will not be easy, and it will not be free. But it is the right thing to do.”

The Supreme Court last June used a Mississippi case to overturn Roe v. Wade, its landmark 1973 ruling that had legalized abortion rights. The law that bans most abortions — a law contingent on Roe v. Wade being removed.

Health officials said they expect Mississippi to have up to 5,000 additional births per year because of the scarcity of abortion. Mississippi is one of the poorest states, and it has the highest fetal mortality and infant mortality rates in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — statistics Reeves did not mention during his bill-signing ceremony Wednesday.

One of the measures Reeves signed, Senate Bill 2696, creates an income tax credit of up to $10,000 for adopting a child who lives in Mississippi and $5,000 for a adopting a child from outside the state. It becomes law July 1.

House Bill 1671 expands a tax credit from $3.5 million a year to $10 million a year statewide for people or businesses who donate to centers that provide diapers, clothing and other assistance for pregnant women. The law is retroactive to Jan. 1.

House Bill 1318 allows cities and counties to establish safe drop-off boxes for babies who are up to 45 days old. The bill became law when Reeves signed it Wednesday.

House Bill 510 is designed to increase transparency for foster parents and make employees from the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services more readily available to them. Reeves said it also helps ensure educational needs of foster children are met. It becomes law July 1.

House Bill 1149 separates the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services from the state Department of Human Services, starting July 1. Reeves said the change will allow CPS, the foster care agency, to collect more federal money.

In March, Reeves signed legislation to solidify an entire year of Medicaid coverage for women after they give birth. Mississippi usually allows two months of postpartum Medicaid coverage. The state had allowed a full year of coverage since the COVID-19 public health emergency started in 2020, although many patients said the state did little to let them know coverage continued after the usual two months.

With the national public health emergency expiring this spring, Mississippi officials intensified their debate over committing to a full year of postpartum benefits. Reeves is seeking reelection, and Democrats hammered him for his long refusal to support the extension.

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Mississippi governor touts ‘culture of life’ with new laws