Attorney General Lynn Fitch talks to reporters after her Thursday speech at the Neshoba County Fair. (Vickie D. King, Mississippi Today)

NESHOBA COUNTY FAIR — Attorney General Lynn Fitch told Neshoba County fairgoers that God chose a Mississippi case to be the catalyst to overturn the national right to an abortion.

“God selected us,” Fitch said on Thursday, referring to the Supreme Court decision in late June overturning Roe v. Wade. “We were chosen to go before the United States Supreme Court.

“God selected the Mississippi case. God put us in this position.”

Numerous politicians on Thursday during the second day of the political speakings on a hot and humid day at the historic Neshoba County Fair evoked God, particularly as it related to the Mississippi abortion case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. That landmark case, argued before the U.S. Supreme Court by Fitch’s office, led to the overturning of a national right to an abortion. Fitch received a rousing ovation at the end of her speech under the tin-roof Founders Square Pavilion.

Fitch and multiple other statewide officials who spoke at the Neshoba County Fair said their next focus is to ensure the mothers and children impacted by the reversal of Roe v. Wade have the support they need.

But they offered few specifics. Even before the reversal of Roe, the state already had the nation’s highest infant mortality rate and the most children per capita living in poverty.

Gov. Tate Reeves and House Speaker Philip Gunn pointed out that the Legislature provided $3.5 million in tax credits to help support 37 pregnancy crisis centers across the state. Both Gunn and Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, who presides over the Senate, have formed or will form special committees to further study the issue. They have referenced continuing efforts to improve the state’s long-beleaguered foster care system and said changes in law are needed to make adoptions easier.

But other than Hosemann, no officeholder has endorsed any specific policy that would accomplish the shared goal of helping mothers and children. Earlier this year, Hosemann was among several Senate Republicans who supported extending Medicaid coverage for one year for mothers after giving birth. According to Reeves, 70% of all women giving birth in Mississippi are on Medicaid, but under state law that coverage only lasts 60 days.

When asked about whether the state should expand postpartum coverage on Thursday, Fitch at first mistakenly responded that she couldn’t talk about the issue because it was “pending litigation.” After it was pointed out that no pending litigation existed on the topic, she then said her office would not push for the policy change, but would uphold whatever law may be passed in the future by lawmakers.

House Speaker Philip Gunn said he would consider providing postpartum coverage if the Division of Medicaid, overseen by Reeves, said it was needed.

Reeves did not answer when asked after his fiery speech whether he would support expanding postpartum coverage.

READ MORE: Doctors asked Speaker Philip Gunn to extend health coverage for moms and babies. Then he blocked it.

Andy Gipson, the commissioner of Department of Agriculture and Commerce, previously served in the state House and played a key role in passing the law that led to the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

When asked after his speech whether he would support an expansion of postpartum coverage, Gipson said he supported private insurance. When it was pointed out that Mississippi had the nation’s highest infant mortality rate, Gipson’s wife, Leslie, who was listening, offered the possibility of a correlation between the high infant mortality rate and the state’s vaccine mandates for infants.

“It is worth looking at,” Gipson concurred, declining to cite any scientific data that suggests such a correlation exists. Gipson, who said he intends to run for re-election, touted what he said was the state’s conservative principles.

Gipson, Gunn and Reeves spoke of national Democrats trying to replace God with their liberal agenda.

“We will never stop fighting for our traditional values,” Reeves said. “We will never stop fighting for our way of life.”

Reeves said national liberal Democrats are working to “have drag shows and teach critical race theory” in the public schools. He was referencing the efforts on the national level to ensure people with different sexual identities or orientations are not discriminated against and of efforts in some schools to teach the impact racism has had on the history of the country.

Among the accomplishments that Gunn cited for the House under his Republican leadership was legislation enacted into law to give businesses the right not to serve same sex couples based on religious principles.

They also took aim at people who they claimed were not working and were receiving taxpayer dollars.

“We believe all able-bodied folks ought to get off the couch and go to work,” Gipson said to rousing applause. He said taxpayers should not subsidize people who will not work.

“This is why we oppose Medicaid expansion,” said Gipson, ignoring studies that indicate most of the people who receive health care coverage — and no cash benefits — from Medicaid expansion are the working poor.

Of course, those nuances were not addressed Thursday at the Neshoba County Fair, where both the political speeches and the weather were hot.

READ MORE: After lawmakers go home without extending postpartum Medicaid, six moms speak out

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Bobby Harrison, Mississippi Today’s senior capitol reporter, covers politics, government and the Mississippi State Legislature. He also writes a weekly news analysis which is co-published in newspapers statewide. A native of Laurel, Bobby joined our team June 2018 after working for the North Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo since 1984. He is president of the Mississippi Capitol Press Corps Association and works with the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute to organize press luncheons. Bobby has a bachelor's in American Studies from the University of Southern Mississippi and has received multiple awards from the Mississippi Press Association, including the Bill Minor Best Investigative/In-depth Reporting and Best Commentary Column.