National News

Mississippi Enacts Legislative Package Praised by Advocates as ‘Pro-Life Safety Net’

The Mississippi State Capitol is pictured in Jackson May 23, 2021. Mississippi has passed eight bills that supporters say are part of the state’s efforts to build a better pro-life social safety net. (OSV News photo)

By Kate Scanlon

(OSV News) — After its defense of a state law limiting abortion made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, resulting in the court’s subsequent decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in June, Mississippi passed a package of bills that state officials said demonstrate creating a safety net for both mothers and babies.

The package introduces an income tax credit for qualified adoption expenses, as well as amends the state’s Safe Haven law to increase the amount of time in which an infant can be safely surrendered to qualified personnel at designated Safe Haven locations, among other measures.

After Roe v. Wade was overturned, abortion advocates would sometimes point to statistics showing states that restricted abortion often have smaller safety nets for women facing unplanned pregnancies. But proponents of Mississippi’s package argued that the state can support mothers and children with what the office of Gov. Tate Reeves, R-Miss., called “Pro-Mom, Pro-Life Legislation.”

Reeves said in a statement that “Mississippi will always protect life.”

“Our state will continue to be a beacon on the hill, a symbol of hope for the country, and a model for the nation,” Reeves said. “Mississippi will be relentless in its commitment to life. We will be relentless in our support of mothers and children. And we will be relentless in our efforts to advance the New Pro-life Agenda. The legislation I signed today is further proof that when it comes to protecting life, Mississippi isn’t just talking the talk — we’re walking the walk.”

Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, who defended the state’s law restricting abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy that was at issue in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, where the high court reversed its jurisprudence since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, returning the matter of regulating abortion to the legislature, said in a statement, “I applaud Mississippi for adopting legislation that supports pregnant women and new mothers, streamlines and reforms adoption and foster care systems, enhances child support enforcement, and expands tax credits for employers providing childcare for their employees.”

“These initiatives will help build healthy families and, as a result, healthy communities,” Fitch said.

Measures passed by the state also increase resources for foster parents and children, and grant what the governor’s office said was the largest budget in the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services’ history.

Fitch, who published a post-Dobbs legislative agenda dubbed The Empowerment Project, celebrated some of the initiatives passed that were included in that legislative framework.

“Whether it is offering compassionate, life-affirming options to mothers in need or providing resources to those looking to upskill and grow, Mississippi is showing the nation that we can both empower women and promote life,” Fitch said.

“We are not done yet — we can and will do more to empower women and their families — but I am encouraged by the progress we’ve made in only a few short weeks and appreciate the hard work that the Mississippi Legislature has done to demonstrate that women and children are their priority, too.”

Caitlin Connors, southern regional director for SBA Pro-Life America, said in an April 19 statement that Mississippi “makes history again today, as Governor Reeves signs eight pro-life safety net measures into law.”

“Through its Gestational Age Act, the life at conception protection that is now in effect, and more policies and programs that help families, it’s incredible to see how much ground Mississippi has covered in the course of a year to protect the unborn and serve their mothers in the Dobbs era, Connors said. “We thank Gov. Reeves, Attorney General Lynn Fitch, and legislative leaders for boldly advocating measures that carry out the full-picture pro-life mission to support women during pregnancy and beyond. The impact of these policies will be felt for generations.”