When I discovered I was pregnant in November 2011, I also discovered that programs to support pregnant parents, babies and new parents in Missouri were not only difficult to qualify for and apply to, but the available assistance would be immensely insufficient.

Since then, the Missouri legislature and the two most recent governors have proposed and enacted extensive funding cuts to health care and public assistance programs that have translated into even less support for the health of expecting parents, current parents and their children.

Missouri’s legislature has couched these health care cuts in rhetoric that expressed a need to balance the budget while the conservative majority simultaneously refused to expand Medicaid.

Health care advocates have spent years educating Missouri’s state legislators on the ways Medicaid expansion would close the insurance coverage gap and prevent the closings of maternity wards and rural hospitals that leave pregnant people in our rural communities with unreasonable distances to travel for care, particularly in emergency situations.

Still, Missouri’s state legislators refused to pass legislation that would expand Medicaid.

Budget cuts to health care continued despite Missouri having some of the worst maternal and infant mortality rates in the country. These mortality rates are compounded by the racial disparity that positions Black women as two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women, and Black babies as two times more likely to die in their first year of life than white babies.

While moms and babies have been dying at an alarming rate, the Missouri legislature continued to reroute millions of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds ($9 million in 2018 alone) from hungry residents to unregulated anti-abortion fake clinics that do nothing to address maternal and infant mortality. TANF funds are allotted by the federal government to states as block grants intended to help feed hungry babies and families, but are instead being used in hopes of deterring people from getting abortions. It appears that the state legislature can get creative when it comes to funding their anti-abortion agenda.

Still, Missouri’s state legislators refused to pass legislation that would expand Medicaid.

Missouri’s state legislature continues to claim the moral high ground while advocating for policies that leave moms and babies to fend for themselves. Missourians deserve access to health care, and since our state legislature refuses to do right by us, we have to do right by ourselves and pass Medicaid expansion on Aug. 4.

Evonnia Woods is a Missouri organizer for Reproaction.


About opinions in the Missourian: The Missourian’s Opinion section is a public forum for the discussion of ideas. The views presented in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Missourian or the University of Missouri. If you would like to contribute to the Opinion page with a response or an original topic of your own, visit our submission form.

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