Gov. Tate Reeves in a ceremony Wednesday signed into law the last three of a handful of bills he said shows Mississippi’s commitment to helping mothers and children post abortion ban.
He said Mississippi’s lawsuit that overturned Roe v. Wade abortion rights nationwide was only a first step, but that Mississippi is “walking the walk … delivering on our promise to mothers and babies.”
Reeves on Wednesday signed three bills, two aimed at helping Mississippi adoption and foster care and a third increasing tax credits for those who donate to state crisis pregnancy resource centers. He also recounted multiple bills he’s signed recently, creating a task force to improve adoption and foster care laws, to provide more funding and autonomy for the state’s Child Protection Services agency, and expanding use of “safe haven” boxes where parents can leave babies for adoption without fear of endangering the child or facing legal repercussions.
When asked, Reeves said he is also hopeful the extension of postpartum Medicaid coverage for mothers from 60 days to a year that he signed about a month ago will also help.
“I believe there’s a good chance that it will help,” Reeves said of the extended Medicaid coverage for mothers, but said the state lacks good data on that and many other health care issues. He said it “stands to reason” that if mothers receive more and longer-term care their health outcomes will improve.
But Reeves, up for reelection this year, reiterated his opposition to expanding Medicaid coverage for the working poor as most other states have done. He was asked by media to respond to Democratic gubernatorial challenger Brandon Presley vowing to expand Medicaid and saying it would be a pro-life move and help Mississippi hospital closure crisis.
Presley has vowed to expand Medicaid his first day in office.
“We’ve turned back billions of dollars in Mississippi,” he said. “Not because of policy. Only reason we’ve turned down federal dollars for health care in Mississippi is petty, partisan, cheap politics.”
On Wednesday Reeves said, “I have not changed my position on the expansion of Obamacare. Adding 300,000 additional people to welfare in our state is not the right path for Mississippi.”
Reeves said his plan to help the health care crisis in Mississippi is to help create jobs for people to have “more opportunity to be in the workplace.”
Reeves was flanked by several lawmakers as he signed the bills, and the room was packed with church representatives and pro-life advocates, who applauded the governor frequently.
Andrea Sanders, director of state Child Protection Services, thanked Reeves and lawmakers at a press conference after he signed bills.
“I would like to thank Gov. Reeves for his constant refrain: Being pro life means more than just being anti-abortion,” Sanders said. “We right now have 3,706 live souls on board, in the custody of the state … This year we have seen an unprecedented, early focus on families and children … the state is prepared to focus on the work that this agency does, which is different from any other in the state.”
Bills signed into law Wednesday by Reeves are:
House Bill 510: This establishes a “foster parents bill of rights,” aimed at increasing transparency for foster parents and providing them with more help from the Department of Child Protection Services.
House Bill 1671: This expands the cap on tax credits for pregnancy resource centers across the state from $3.5 million a year to $10 million. Reeves said this will help the centers, which prior to the abortion ban helped counsel expectant mothers against abortion, hire more people and expand services.
Senate Bill 2696: This creates an income tax credit for adoption expenses. It covers a maximum of $10,000 of qualified expenses for Mississippians who adopt children from Mississippi and up to $5,000 for those who adopt children out of state.
Sen. Nicole Akins Boyd, R-Oxford, was among the lawmakers who attended Wednesday’s bill signing. Starting last year, she headed up a special committee created by Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann to direct post-Roe legislation to help mothers, children and families.
Boyd said she is proud of the measures lawmakers passed and Reeves signed this year. She said task forces on foster care and adoption and on early intervention have major tasks ahead in informing policy and funding in Mississippi, and she expects her special committee will continue.
“There is a lot of work still to do — lots of work,” Boyd said.