I was born in New Mexico, so I chose to highlight the blog with this image. With the potential of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v Wade soon to kick off – 26 of these United States, just over half, will completely ban all abortions for any reason and the forced birthing of women who find themselves pregnant will be the result. Some states – Arizona, Florida, Tennessee and Texas have all extended health benefits for low-income mothers in recent months, and Alabama and Georgia have both moved to implement such extensions. There is an important distinction to make here – all of these states listed here plan to impose severe abortion restrictions or bans.
New Mexico will NOT be banning abortion – they are expanding Medicaid coverage for the RIGHT reason and not as cover for their war on women’s equal rights. Abortion is legal at all stages of pregnancy in New Mexico. There was a law in New Mexico that banned abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or if it was necessary to save a woman’s life. That law was put on NM’s books in 1969. In Feb 2021, Gov Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill that struck that old law from the books. She said, “This is about women who deserve the right, particularly when there are untenable circumstances, to have a relationship with their provider and control over their own bodies and we know when that occurs, frankly, we are saving lives.”
Colorado took it even a step further than New Mexico in April 2022. Gov Jared Polis signed the Reproductive Health Equity Act into law. The legislation makes it a right for people to make reproductive health care decisions without government interference.
I have long argued that we do not support mothers and children, or families for that matter, seriously enough as a society. So this expansion of Medicaid benefits is certainly welcomed. However, the bans that will go into place if the Supreme Court rules as currently expected, will also result in a worsening of the current maternal mortality rate. That rate has risen overall in 2020. There were almost 24 deaths per 100,000 births, or 861 deaths total. This number reflects mothers who died during pregnancy, childbirth or the year after. The rate was 20 per 100,000 in 2019. Among Black women the rate has long been much worse. There were 55 maternal deaths per 100,000 births. That is almost triple the rate for white people.
“If they [Republican lawmakers] really cared about maternal mortality they’d reduce the causes of maternal mortality – and it goes way beyond Medicaid expansion,” according to Loretta Ross, an associate professor at Smith College in Georgia and a reproductive justice activist.
The truth is that there have been changes to Medicaid, thanks to a provision of federal pandemic aid, which streamlined postpartum benefit changes. Missouri has long refused to expand Medicaid. The most dramatic effect of a post-partum extension would be felt in those Republican-led states, where lawmakers have long refused to expand the program to more low-income people.
In Texas, 25% of women of reproductive age lack health insurance, the highest rate in the nation. Texas is also among the 10 worst states for maternal mortality. Lawmakers in Texas recently expanded Medicaid to pregnant patients for six months after giving birth, instead of only the two they were given previously.
Back to my previous argument that we don’t support mothers, their children or the families enough – a single mother in Texas supporting two children cannot earn more than $2,760 a year and qualify for Medicaid – unless they are pregnant, in which case they can earn up to $45,600 a year and qualify. The previous exemption lasted only 60 days after birth – which it should be noted is also the federal minimum. After that, most become uninsured once again. so, the expansion to six months is welcome but still insufficient.
In Tennessee, the Republican governor, Bill Lee, directly connected the state’s postpartum Medicaid expansion and abortion. At a press conference in May, he spoke about Tennessee’s “trigger” ban, a law that will allow the state to immediately ban abortion, if the supreme court ends federal protections. He said, this is for “The lives of unborn children (and that) it’s very important that we protect their lives. It’s also important that we recognize that women in crisis need support and assistance through this process. For example, that’s why we’ve expanded our postpartum coverage for women in TennCare.”
It is all a brilliant smoke and mirrors strategy to pretend they care but I sincerely doubt they do. Want to bet that these women’s poverty related need for Medicaid will be used against them to take the children away and give them to wealthier people wanting to adopt ?
Statistics and details are thanks to The Guardian and KOB4 in Albuquerque NM.