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2021 Mississippi Legislative Brief

Background and Landscape

The Mississippi Legislature has long sought to restrict access to reproductive and sexual health care, introducing more than 130 restrictions since 2006. Every session, members seek out new ways to restrict access to or outright ban abortion, at times even targeting family planning and contraceptives. Rather than ensuring Mississippians have access to the resources and tools they need to thrive, legislators actively support bills that have devastating consequences for families. At Planned Parenthood, we know that access to safe and legal abortion is a critical part of health care, as is having access to a range of contraceptive options and wellness screenings. In 2011, Mississippians voted decisively to keep politicians out of our reproductive health care decisions. Ultimately, any pregnancy decision, including the decision to choose adoption, end a pregnancy, or raise a child, must be left to a person, their family, and their faith, with the counsel of their doctor. 

Even after that decisive vote, the legislature continues to attack access. Leadership insists that members ignore the will of their constituents and vote the party line. After gaining a Republican Party trifecta following the 2011 elections, controlling the state House, Senate, and Executive branch, steadily increasing legislative attacks on women and families, working people, the LGBTQ community, communities of color, and on Mississippians standing at the intersections of those identities is the norm. Prior to the economic impacts of COVID-19 becoming a concern, the damaging effect of corporate tax cuts are looming, and significant budget cuts continue to impact state agency budgets.

Through it all, members remain laser-focused on chipping away at abortion access as part of their overarching effort to outlaw abortion by any means possible. Just in the last 3 years, legislators have passed an unconstitutional 15-week, and following that, a 6-week abortion ban. The 15-week abortion ban was signed into law, temporarily blocked by a US District Court, and appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, one of the most conservative federal appellate courts. The lower court decision was ultimately upheld by a three-judge panel. “In an unbroken line dating to Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s abortion cases have established (and affirmed, and re-affirmed) a woman’s right to choose an abortion before viability,” the appeals court judges wrote. 

In 2020, ignoring the US District Court ruling that 2018’s 15-week ban "unequivocally" violates women's constitutional rights, legislators introduced multiple bans, including one to ban abortion outright. A ban specifically using racist stereotypes to target women of color passed and has been signed into law. PPSEA and our partners pushed back, but the anti-abortion supermajority ultimately prevailed. 

2019 Statewide and Legislative Elections

In the 2019 elections, Republicans retained their supermajorities in both the House and Senate. Not a single vote from a Democrat is needed to pass legislation, including budget or appropriations bills requiring a 3/5 majority vote. With the supermajorities in place and Mississippi’s statewide offices fully occupied by Republicans, this trifecta could have a tremendously damaging impact for the foreseeable future. Since the 2019 elections there have been a number of special elections, but no changes to the overall legislative landscape.

 2021 Session Expectations

The appointment of Amy Coney Barrett to the US Supreme Court and the election of President Joe Biden is expected to have impacts on the 2021 legislative session. Conservative lawmakers are emboldened by what they view as a sympathetic SCOTUS and seeking to provide solace to their base after the loss of the Presidency. These circumstances combined create a toxic legislative environment ripe for a frenzy of anti-abortion legislation. In addition to the topics listed below, continued COVID-19 relief and related issues like workforce development will be of interest again this session. 

Access to Safe and Legal Abortion

The courts enjoining a 15-week abortion ban did not stop Mississippi legislators from passing a 6-week abortion ban. Whether members attempt to pass another clearly unconstitutional measure is less of a question and more of a certainty, as states jockey for position to rush bills to the Supreme Court. Legislation could take many forms, including a complete ban on abortion, or something more insidious. We anticipate seeing as few as 5 or as many as 15 bills introduced attacking access to safe and legal abortion.

Medicaid Expansion

Affordable health care coverage is critical to Mississippians, and Medicaid expansion could extend additional coverage to many individuals of childbearing age in Mississippi. Healthy moms mean healthy babies, and this expansion of care could only mean positive change for our dismal maternal and infant mortality rates. While no substantive efforts to expand Medicaid moved forward during 2020, interested parties continue to explore legislative and ballot initiative opportunities to move this policy forward, especially as uncompensated care costs rise, reimbursements dwindle and rural hospitals close their doors. 

Equal Pay

Mississippi’s failure to pass equal pay during the 2020 session leaves us as the only state without state-level equal pay protections. Working closely with the Mississippi Women’s Economic Security Initiative and Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable, we continue to support legislative efforts to pass a policy ensuring equal pay for equal work. 

Democracy Reform and Voting Rights

Expansion of access to the polls is top of mind for many lawmakers, and restricting access is top of mind for others. COVID-19 demonstrated a clear need for expanded opportunities for voter registration, as well as early voting. With Mississippi’s long history of racist policy related to access to the polls, it is critical that any reforms expand, rather than contract access, and that a racial equity lens is applied to ensure that Black and low-income voters are not disenfranchised in the process. 

Education

With COVID-19 exposing the cracks and chasms in the system and promised teacher pay raises at risk due to budget challenges, education will remain a priority issue for legislators. A split exists in the normal lock-step for the Republicans with members in affluent areas with good school systems being supportive of public education, and other Republican members more supportive of vouchers to be used for private and charter schools. 

Looking ahead

Mississippi’s legislators should support a health care agenda that centers access to preventive care, including sexual and reproductive health care, allowing families to plan their pregnancies and improving health outcomes. Ensuring Mississippians have access to the information and services they need means a better state for us all. Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates will continue to push for the needs of those we serve, including access to equitable sexual and reproductive health care, and working with our partners on intersectional issues that impact the lives of our patients and supporters. All the while we will continue to provide opportunities for those most impacted by these issues to participate in the legislative process.

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Take Action

Feb. 3, 2021
Mississippi, we did it, together! 

Today was a major deadline for the Mississippi Legislative Session. Any bill that did not pass in committee is done for the year. Nearly 2,200 bills were introduced and only a few hundred remain. Thanks to your support and outreach to legislators, we are THRILLED to share that NO ABORTIONS BILLS will move forward!

Here is what IS moving forward that we’ll be watching: 

  • Attacks on Trans Youth Athletes - Instead of supporting potentially vulnerable young people in our communities, SB2536 seeks to ban student athletes from participating on non-coed school sports teams that do not align with their biological sex. The clear goal is to prevent transgender young people from participating in sports according to their gender identities and force them onto teams of the opposite gender.  

  • Supporting Families in Need - Mississippi’s dismally low monthly cash assistance program (TANF) rates are among the lowest in the country. SB2759 would increase the base rate of that monthly support for the first time since 1999. 

  • Access to the Polls - Legislators introduced more than 100 bills expanding or restricting access to the polls this year. Many still remain, including HB4 which disenfranchises voters by creating a systematic process process to remove voters from the voter rolls unnecessarily. 

  • First Amendment Right to Protest - Legislation seeking to restrict or criminalize the right to protest are everywhere this year, including Mississippi. SB2283 started as a harsh anti-protest bill and was amended in committee. We will continue to monitor.

Want to keep up on these and other bills? 

Follow us on social media for real-time updates on important committee meetings and floor hearings.

Jan. 18, 2021
HB338, MS abortion ban drops

The first abortion ban in Missisippi dropped Monday, Jan. 18th: HB338. This recycled bill is now on its 3rd round, having been previously introduced in 2019 and 2020 by Rep. Eubanks. 

The bill bans abortion. It would be a felony to provide an abortion, or to possess information on self-managing an abortion. 

We #WontBePunished

In states across the country, ultraconservative lawmakers are cutting women off from care — and punishing them when they dare to fight back.

We won’t let it happen.

Get Involved!

Are you ready to join the fight to defend reproductive rights, expand access to health care, and protect those who rely on Planned Parenthood for care? 

There are many opportunities to get involved with Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates. You can make a donation, attend an event or rally, take action on reproductive health issues that matter to you, volunteer, and even work for us!

We count on members, activists, interns and supporters like you to help us organize outreach programs, host events, stop dangerous legislation from passing and advocate for the diverse communities that rely on Planned Parenthood. 

Check out all the ways you can make your voice heard and get involved with the issues that matter to you most!

  • Volunteer

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  • Register to vote!

    Check your registration status and #ShoutYourVote. Find out everything you need to know in preparation for Election Day!

  • Attend an Event

    Support Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates by attending an event this year!

  • Donate

    We need your support now more than ever! Donate to Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates

Ways to get Involved