Senate committee asks public to comment about needs of Mississippi women and children

A committee Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann created to study the needs of women, children and families in the wake of Roe v. Wade abortion rights being overturned has scheduled four hearings and wants written input from the public.

Hosemann said on Thursday the bipartisan, nine-member Senate Study Group on Women, Children and Families will hold hearings at the Capitol on September 27 and 28, and on October 25 and 26. The hearings will be webcast, archived and open to the public.

The public is invited to email written testimony to WCFStudyGroup@senate.ms.gov. The comments will be presented to the full committee.

House Speaker Philip Gunn last month also announced he was creating a similar committee — the Speaker’s Commission on the Sanctity of Life — to address post-Roe needs for services in Mississippi. He has not announced its membership or hearings, and his office did not immediately respond to a request for an update on Thursday. Gunn had said his commission will include lawmakers, experts and advocates making recommendations to the House for policies to help women’s and children’s wellbeing.

Republicans Hosemann, Gunn and Gov. Tate Reeves have praised the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on a Mississippi case that overturned the decades-old Roe v. Wade decision providing women abortion rights. But the three said the decision also requires Mississippi leaders to provide more resources to help mothers, children and families.

Mississippi, the poorest state in the nation, suffers from lack of prenatal, postnatal and all other forms of health care. It also has the highest infant mortality rate in the nation and one of the highest maternal death rates. It has for years faced federal court decrees to address its substandard foster care and children’s services system.

The Senate committee will be chaired by Sen. Nicole Boyd, a Republican from Oxford.

“May people have personal stories about these topics and written testimony provides and opportunity to share them with study group members and the Senate,” Boyd said in a statement. “We are also encouraging legislators to reach out to their constituents and hold public hearings in their districts before the study group hearing dates in the fall.”

Hosemann said: “Testimony primarily from state agency heads and experts, and research following these hearings, will aid Stn. Boyd and the study group members in forming policy proposals going into the 2023 legislative session.”

Gunn has steadfastly opposed Medicaid expansion to cover the working poor, and earlier this year he torpedoed a Senate proposal backed by Hosemann to extend postpartum Medicaid coverage for Mississippi mothers.

Hosemann is the only one of the state’s top three leaders who’s said he’s open to discussion about expanding Medicaid, which would provide the state about $1 billion a year in federal funds to provide health coverage for the working poor. But Gunn said recently when asked about Medicaid and postpartum expansion said, “All of those things you’re mentioning are things that will be on the table” with his new commission.

Topics set for the Senate hearings are:

Sept. 27: Statistical overview and maternal/child healthcare

Sept. 28: Adoption, foster care and child support

Oct. 25: Childcare availability

Oct. 26: Early intervention

Hosemann said additional hearing dates or topics may be added as necessary.

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