Connecting Up the Dots

By Anna Quindlen

Newsweek

Jan. 24 issue – There is now only a single abortion clinic in Mississippi. Once there were seven. There are nearly 3 million people living in the state. No other state with only one abortion clinic has as many residents. Mississippi has enacted every restriction on abortion possible within the limits set by the Supreme Court. Among them is a provision that a woman must be counseled in person about the procedure and then wait 24 hours before being permitted to have it performed.

In 2000, researchers published a study of the effects of the waiting period. It showed that the number of later abortions increased sharply among Mississippi residents who relied on local clinics but not among those able to travel to neighboring states. The study showed that after the waiting period went into effect the number of second-trimester procedures in the state rose from 7.5 percent of all abortions to 11.5 percent. That study was done before the legislature passed a bill that would bar all clinic abortions after the first trimester. A federal judge blocked its enforcement, saying he couldn’t understand how it “does anything to further the state’s professed desire to protect the health and safety of women.”

Mandatory counseling includes a lecture that notes that medical benefits may be available for prenatal, childbirth and neonatal care. The woman seeking an abortion must receive a list of services and agencies that could assist her in having a child, including those that handle adoptions.

Mississippi has the highest infant-mortality rate in the nation and ranks 43rd among the 50 states in the number of women who have health insurance, according to a recent report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. In 2004, the state failed to meet national standards on the length of time it took to restore foster children to their birth families and to place a child for adoption.

According to the Census, the average household in Mississippi has an income of just over $31,000 annually, about $10,000 below the national average. According to the Department of Agriculture, the cost of raising a child to age 18 is around $200,000.

The counseling provisions also require that patients in Mississippi be told that abortion may increase the risk of breast cancer. The National Cancer Institute reported last year that there is no scientific evidence to support that contention. The British medical journal The Lancet looked at dozens of studies and concluded there was no link.

Mississippi is one of only two states that require a minor to get the consent of both parents to have an abortion. If the minor has been impregnated by her father, she needs only the consent of her mother.

The state has the highest teen birthrate in America. While nationwide the teenage-pregnancy rate has declined in recent years, in Mississippi it increased. In 2001, nearly 200 babies were born to girls under the age of 15. In 2002, almost 55,000 Mississippi grandparents had primary responsibility for the care of their grandchildren, according to the Child Welfare League of America.

In 2001, 22 out of every thousand children in the state were reported to be abused or neglected. There was a 41 percent increase between 1998 and 2002 in the number of children younger than 18 arrested in the state.

Black residents account for only 37 percent of the state’s population, but for nearly three out of every four abortions.

A typical woman in Mississippi earns 74 cents for every dollar a man makes. A typical black woman in Mississippi earns 79 cents for every dollar a white woman makes. Black children make up more than half of those in foster care and in the state adoption system, according to the Mississippi Department of Human Services.

According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, Mississippi ranks 51st in the percentage of its citizens living above the poverty level. (The District of Columbia was included in the sample.) Mississippi has the highest number of women in prison of any state. Between 1995 and 2003 the percentage of women inmates grew by more than 13 percent.

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group supported by foundation and government grants. In its most recent assessment of the overall condition of American women, it named Mississippi the worst state in the country. It was also named the worst state for women in 1998, 2000 and 2002. It ranked 49th in terms of women in elected office, and at the bottom of the list for health and well-being, including the incidence of diabetes and deaths from cancer and heart disease.

The institute ranked Mississippi worst in the nation for reproductive rights.

Protesters have vowed to shut down the state’s sole remaining abortion clinic, which is in Jackson.

Sometimes you don’t even have to state an opinion.

You just have to state the facts.

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