GUIZERIX: The Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision from the eyes of a Mississippi mother

Published 4:00 am Wednesday, June 29, 2022

I have proudly been a Mississippi resident for almost 10 years now, and it has been the backdrop to some of the most significant events of my life — chief among them, the birth of my baby girl.

However, as a mother who gave birth in one of the state’s top-rated hospitals, I am terrified at the thought of doing that again. It’s not that I’ve developed some irrational fear of the physical pains of labor and delivery.

It’s quite the opposite — I never got to experience it.

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From the rushed decision to induce birth, to the rights I didn’t know I had, to the cesarean section I did not want but felt pressured into, the thought of putting my life and the life of any future child I might have in the hands of Mississippi’s health care system brings forth feelings of terror.

Luckily, even with all the unnecessary medical interventions and trauma I endured, I had a healthy baby and fully recovered. Unfortunately — heartbreakingly — that’s not the case for many other mothers in Mississippi.

Mississippi has one of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the nation. We also have one of the highest c-section rates in the nation. The state is notorious for poor prenatal care as well. Warren County specifically records one of the highest premature birth rates in the state. Speaking from my limited professional scope, I can say I’ve edited more obituaries for infants in one year at The Vicksburg Post than I edited in four years in Lafayette County.

With the Supreme Court of the United States’ ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health last Friday effectively overturning Roe v. Wade, the fact of the matter is that more babies will be born in Mississippi.

As a devout Catholic, I am thrilled. As a woman, albeit one of relative privilege, who went through pregnancy and birth in this state, I am nervous.

We have to demand better for Mississippi’s mothers and unborn children. We have to ensure that once children are born, they have a quality of life. If women have got to bring babies into this world, then as neighbors, Christians or politicians (or a combination of those three), we need to do right by the women of this state.

The good news is that there are existing programs in place to help women who choose birth in the Warren County area.

The Center for Pregnancy Choices serves thousands of women and families each year at no cost, providing prenatal care, mental health support, items for babies and much more. Jackson-based Sisters in Birth women’s health clinic is committed to helping all women, both insured and uninsured. The clinic provides comprehensive services, including primary care, midwifery care, home healthcare, childbirth education, doula support, postpartum care and breastfeeding support — a far cry from your average OBGYN office.

Merit Health River Region has also taken steps to better serve birthing mothers, adding two new OBGYN practitioners to its staff within the last month.

There is hope for mothers and babies in this uncertain time. But it’s something we all need to advocate for, no matter if we’re pro-life or pro-choice.

Fundraise if you feel led. Volunteer where you can. Be a foster parent if you can. Call your legislators and ask them to allocate funds to programs that promote the well-being of mothers and children in our state.

Mississippi can be an uncertain place to give birth and raise a child — but it doesn’t have to be.