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Meet the Unlikely Pair Who Are Challenging Mississippi’s Pro-Life Claims

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For nearly 30 years, the Rev. Carol Burnett has advised Mississippi’s state leaders on how to improve policy to better benefit working women. They rarely listen. Instead, she’s watched one abortion restriction after another become state law.

“With regard to the kind of hypocrisy of the legislature saying they’re watching out for the well-being of women’s health, I think that the two most immediate things that would leap out as a counter example of that are the actions the legislature took this last session, refusing to extend Medicaid postpartum to a full 12 months … and the state’s failure to expand Medicaid,” said Burnett, one of the first female Methodist ministers in the state and founder of the Mississippi Low-Income Child Care Initiative.

For Burnett, who works daily with single moms trying to make ends meet, access to health insurance and child care are the biggest barriers blocking women’s well-being in the state. Because Mississippi hasn’t expanded Medicaid, and state postpartum benefits cut off two months after birth—just as many maternal health complications start to show up—state-sponsored health insurance is out of reach for many low-income Mississippians.

Even with improvements over the last decade through the Affordable Care Act, 14 percent of Mississippians are uninsured. For nonelderly women, it’s even higher—nearly 1 in 5 lack health insurance, the third highest rate in the United States.

Burnett’s nonprofit advocates for policy that strengthens mothers’ economic security by making child care affordable and the state’s thin safety net function better for low-income working moms. The policy group dovetails with another organization Burnett runs, the Biloxi-based Moore Community House, which provides affordable child care and workforce training for construction and advanced manufacturing jobs—two of the highest paying blue-collar jobs, but which are dominated by a male workforce.

For Burnett, faith in action means supporting access to resources necessary to thrive, such as a living wage, quality child care, and health insurance—all of which are currently out of reach for many Mississippi women.

Ashley Peterson agrees. As director of the nonprofit reproductive advocacy group Faith in Women, she sees how the poverty cycle plays into decisions about reproductive health care. People living in poverty are more likely to rely on the state’s only abortion clinic,........

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