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2021 Mississippi Post-Session Brief

Background and Landscape

The Mississippi Legislature has a long history of attempts to restrict access to reproductive health care. Every year, legislators introduce bills to impede access to or outright ban abortion, and at times their efforts even target family planning and contraceptives. Rather than ensuring Mississippians have access to the resources and tools they need to thrive, legislators actively support bills that would negatively impact families. 

 

Since the 2015 elections, the Mississippi legislature has been under solid Republican control. With Republican supermajorities in both the House and Senate, not a single vote from a Democrat is needed to pass budget or appropriations bills. Not surprisingly, we continue to see increased attacks on women and families, working people, the LGBTQ community, communities of color, and Mississippians who stand at the intersections of those identities. The devastating impact of corporate tax cuts is looming, and the only thing stopping significant budget cuts to state agencies is federal COVID-19 relief. 

 

The COVID-19 pandemic meant a continuation of the mostly virtual lobbying experience that began in 2020. Floor business and most committee meetings were live-streamed via a new legislative YouTube channel. While fewer this year than in 2020, several legislators were diagnosed with COVID-19, and yet, many members continued to disregard COVID-9 safety guidelines. 

 

2021 Session Outcomes

With the current US Supreme Court composition, a state-level anti-abortion trifecta, and last fall’s federal elections, we anticipated a difficult year. However, we were able to stop all attacks on abortion access and reproductive health care prior to the first committee deadline. This is a rare occurrence and only happens once or twice a decade, so it is truly something to celebrate! This success is due to a confluence of factors including leadership changes and unfortunately, new areas of focus from ALEC and other conservative organizations. Other solid wins this year include stopping voter disenfranchisement efforts and harmful tax policies that would have disproportionately impacted low-income Mississippians. 

 

On the proactive front, the passage of the "Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act" will prohibit the shackling of incarcerated pregnant women, ensure incarcerated people have access to menstrual products, and house incarcerated mothers closer to their children. An increase in TANF funds for the first time since 1999 means increased cash support for low-income families. Finally, the passage of a bill criminalizing the sharing of intimate materials will protect Mississippians, mostly women, from “revenge porn.”

 

Access to Safe and Legal Abortion

At Planned Parenthood, we know that access to safe and legal abortion is a critical part of reproductive health care. In 2011, Mississippians voted clearly to keep politicians out of our health care decisions. Ultimately, 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. 

 

For years, we have called out legislative attempts to “protect women” by restricting abortion access for what they really are: efforts to ban abortion by any means possible. This year, members were left without a victory after we stopped all the anti-abortion legislation from moving past the initial committee deadline, so members claimed the passage of SB2746 as their annual anti-abortion victory. This law requires the state to create resources for dissemination to a pregnant person with a fetal diagnosis of a chromosomal disorder. 

 

Other anti-abortion legislation introduced and defeated:

  • HB338 (Eubanks) Bans safe, legal abortion 

  • HB735 (Boyd) Codifies fetal rights, allowing private suits to be brought when an embryo or fetus is injured in any way, at any stage of development 

  • HB790 (Boyd) Bans safe, legal abortion

  • HB791 (Boyd) Confusing language that could potentially criminalize abortion

  • HB1162 (Arnold) Prohibits the sale of stem cells, which is already illegal 

  • HCR19 (Eubanks) Would recognize Roe anniversary as “Day of Tears” in Mississippi

 

Attacks on Transgender Student-Athletes

Legislative attacks on young women athletes who are transgender were fierce, both here and across the country. Governor Reeves signed SB2536 into law, which bans student-athletes from participating in sports according to their gender identities, forcing them onto teams of the opposite gender. We continue to work closely with coalition partners to support transgender students and student-athletes in Mississippi. 

 

Medicaid and Medicaid Expansion

Affordable health care coverage is critical to Mississippians, and we continue to remind legislators that Medicaid expansion could extend additional coverage to many Mississippians of childbearing age. This could mean positive change for our dismal maternal and infant mortality rates. In an infuriating turn of events, legislators made clear their lack of concern about the lives of women, and especially Black women, by failing to include postpartum Medicaid expansion in the Medicaid technical bill. , Using clever procedural techniques, Black Caucus members in each chamber forced an unexpected vote on the issue of broader Medicaid expansion for the state. Given the legislature’s unwillingness to move on this issue, a coalition is considering bringing Medicaid expansion before voters via a ballot initiative in 2022. 

 

Equal Pay

Mississippi remains the only state without state-level equal pay protections. Rather than take up the legislation drafted by the Women’s Economic Security Initiative, Republic legislators authored and championed bills without protections based on race and retaliation, and did not remove salary history on job applications. In fact, several women legislators fought staunchly against protections based on race and endorsed legislation that omitted the pillars championed by progressive organizations in Mississippi. Collaboration with partners led to the defeat of this not-so equal pay bill, and we continue to work with the Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable and other partners to advocate for equal pay and other economic justice legislation. 

 

Education

Education remains a priority issue for legislators and represents an issue where Republicans lack cohesiveness in ideology. Members in affluent areas with good, well-funded school systems are very supportive of public education, while other Republican members are largely in support of vouchers to be used for private and charter schools. Mississippi’s sex education law, scheduled to receive a non-controversial reauthorization vote, failed to move forward. It was later stuffed into a bill regarding the computer science curriculum, which was signed by Governor Reeves in March. 

 

Personal Income Tax

After pushing fiercely with coalition partners in opposition to Speaker Gunn’s legislation to repeal Mississippi’s personal income tax, the legislation met its end for the session as the Senate Finance Chair declined to bring the bill for a vote.

 

Infrastructure

A catastrophic winter storm highlighted infrastructure problems in the Mississippi Delta and Jackson-Metropolitan area, concentrated in predominantly Black neighborhoods and communities. Governor Reeves and legislative leadership offered little support to Mississippians impacted by the storms. 

 

Mississippians Taking Action

With 13 virtual Pink Out the Halls events and 2,543 viewers and counting, 2021 was our largest Pink Out the Halls program yet! For the first time, we hosted virtual pre-session and post-session series with our coalition partners, highlighting key progressive issues in our state. 

 

We partnered with organizations like Mississippi Low-Income Childcare Initiative, Southern Poverty Law Center, Women’s Policy Institute, SHEro, 601 for Period Equity, Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100), ACLU Mississippi, Transgender Education and Advocacy Program (TEAP), Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition, Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Pink House Defenders, Center for Reproductive Rights, Mississippi Women’s Economic Security Initiative, Black Women’s Roundtable, and Mississippi Votes. This collaborative cross-pollination of issues with other organizations allows us to collectively bring our work to people in the same manner in which these issues show up in the lives of marginalized people: intersectionally. 

Looking ahead

Mississippi’s legislators should support a health care agenda that centers access to not just reproductive health care, but health care in general, ensuring residents have the information and services they need. Republicans have made it abundantly clear that this is not a priority. Mississippi will have the opportunity to advocate for Medicaid expansion and early voting through ballot initiatives in the upcoming election cycles. 

 

It is our job to continue to push for the needs of those we serve, ensuring access to health care, and working with our partners on intersectional issues that impact the lives of our patients and supporters. With a new state flag and the legalization of medical marijuana, we proved that the power of the vote still exists.  All the while we will continue to grow our power to leverage on behalf of the patients and communities we serve, and provide opportunities for those most impacted by these issues to participate in the legislative process.

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Take Action

How can you support the work of Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates to protect access to reproductive and sexual health care?

  • Take the next step: Join the PPSEA Rapid Response Network to be part of our front-line response to attacks on reproductive and sexual health, as well as issues that impact women and families.

  • Donate: Give to Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates to support our lobbying work and vital programming, like Pink Out the Halls. 

For more information on Women in the Halls, joining the Rapid Response Network, or making a contribution to support this work, contact us at [email protected]

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!

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  • Attend an Event

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

  • Donate

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Ways to get Involved