Several of the bills signed related to foster care, including a bill that, among other things, establishes a “foster parents bill of rights” and makes the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services personnel more readily available for foster parents. Additionally, it helps ensure that the educational needs of foster children are being met and provides access to available resources for parents, the governor said. The new legislation establishes a task force on adoption that will study Mississippi’s laws regarding foster care, adoption, and other related areas and make recommendations for improvement to the Legislature.
Mississippi has a 15-week abortion limit on the books that was the subject of the Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which led to the overturning of Roe v. Wade last year, ending the previously-held right to abortion nationwide.
Reeves’ signing of the legislation this week follows his signing last month of an extension of Medicaid postpartum coverage to 12 months, an action that the bishops of the United States had recommended late last year. The previous limit was 60 days, and Mississippi is one of the last states in the country to expand its postpartum Medicaid program. Coverage was extended at the federal level as part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, but that coverage was set to expire next month, leading states to pass their own extensions.
In a Feb. 24 joint letter, Mississippi’s two Catholic bishops expressed their support for the effort to expand Medicaid, noting that poor Mississippi mothers losing access to Medicaid coverage after just 60 days has led to “fatal complications.”
“Our faith affirms the value of every human life, and we have supported the Legislature’s past actions to protect the lives of unborn children. However, the commitment to life must not end at birth. We believe that access to affordable health care is a fundamental human right, one that is necessary for the flourishing of families and communities,” the bishops wrote.
“The health of new mothers and children are inextricably linked. Mississippi has the highest rate of infant mortality in the country, while the mortality rate for new mothers is among the highest and is rising sharply. The health of children and the health of their mothers is connected to their mutual access to quality health care. Racial disparities are also growing wider. Pregnancy-related deaths are four times more likely among black women than white women in Mississippi. Medical experts have said that two-thirds of these deaths could have been prevented with access to proper health care.”