At Least This

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.

Broken Family Threads

It is said that it is Black History Month, though many of my friends chafe at that and say it is ALWAYS black history. I understand. Imani Perry’s book South To America has been getting some buzz and as I writer I notice those things.

Yesterday, I read an essay adapted from her book published in Time Magazine’s Feb 14 – Feb 21 2022 issue titled “The Way Home.” It is about her effort to reconnect with a grandmother in Maryland who she is able to know very little about. Was her name Easter Lowe or Esther Watkins ? Was she born in Maryland or Georgia, was she 101 years old or 91.

I realized as I read how much I could relate to her journey to Maryland which is described in the article. Her attempt to get some insight into unknowable people. I recognized my own “roots” journey, often fraught with disappointment and too little too slowly. I am fortunate to know what I know now. Though the African American experience of slavery is not mine, I know how it feels not to know anything about where one came from (both of my parents were adoptees). At one time, I used to tell people I was an albino African because no one could prove me wrong, not even myself. Now I finally do know better.

Slavery was not exactly in my family history but in a way it was. My paternal grandmother was put to work in the Rayon mills in Asheville NC at a young age. She was not allowed to keep her own earnings and was probably expected to do a lot of other chores in the home. Her mother died when she was only 3 mos old and she had to live with a decidedly evil step-mother (from a story I heard about her being tied to a tree in a thunderstorm). She was a run-away slave. When her family visited her grandfather and her aunt in La Jolla California, she refused to return to Asheville and her slave labor there.

Poverty and the Great Depression was likely the cause of both of my grandmothers being separated from their babies. There really was not any family support for them. My maternal grandmother also lost her mother at the age of 11. She also escaped harsh conditions with her widowed father who was a sharecropper. She ran away to Memphis where she met and married my mom’s birth father.

Though I am not black and my family wasn’t enslaved, I can relate to Imani Perry’s story because in very real ways it is my story too. I didn’t grow up with a strong white supremacist’s identity. I was in the minority in Hispanic El Paso Texas and anyway, we didn’t have a clue to our ethnicity. Even so, I do recognize now that being white has put me in a class of advantages and I’ve worked very hard at educating myself by reading every anti-racist type book that has come my way. I celebrate the contributions of Black, African Americans to the diversity and vibrancy of the country of my own birth.