I don’t really want a baby. I don’t even like them all that much, tbh. But damn it if I didn’t cry listening to this podcast co-hosted by my former Thoughts on Liberty (RIP) colleague and fellow Alabama native Liz Beshears. In it, Anna Claire Vollers describes losing her baby shortly after giving birth. She’s writing a series for AL.com on giving birth in Alabama.
Alabama has the nation’s highest infant mortality rate. The March of Dimes gave Alabama an “F” on preterm births. The state doesn’t even accurately count maternal mortality. But the data we do have show it’s increasing, and most of these deaths are preventable.
Access to prenatal care is essential for healthy babies, according to Dr. Grace Thomas, Director for Bureau of Family Health Services. But many Alabama mothers live two hours or more away from a hospital. What this means in real terms is that in Alabama mothers who suffer complications that require immediate care lose their babies needlessly.
Why do so many Alabama mothers live so far from a hospital? Because in Alabama it’s illegal to open a new hospital without permission from the other nearby hospitals. I am not making this up. Yes, Alabama is that corporatist. They’re called Certificate of Need (CON) laws. As in, you have to prove to the existing hospitals that the area needs another hospital.
Mercatus research shows that states with CON laws suffer all the harms associated with a monopoly, including higher costs, shortages, and lower quality healthcare.
Now listen. I don’t want to believe that Alabama lawmakers passed the country’s most restrictive abortion ban not so much to keep babies alive but much more to punish women for having sex and force them into motherhood. I don’t want to believe that but it’s very hard to come to any other conclusion when Alabama lawmakers know their state has the nation’s highest infant mortality rate in large part due to their own horrifically corrupt and harmful laws which they could easily change at any time but choose not to.
I don’t know. It almost feels like Alabama lawmakers don’t actually care about babies.
Or maybe they do care about babies, just less than healthcare executives. When it comes to women bleeding out from illegal abortions, well that’s just the cost of protecting the unborn. But if protecting the unborn should mean they can no longer sell monopoly privileges to the healthcare industry. Well, that’s just a piece too far.
Anna Claire Vollers is spending a year reporting on giving birth in Alabama. She writes: “What I’ve found, in my reporting, are broken systems, underfunded programs and political inattention that have combined to make motherhood in Alabama a difficult – and sometimes life-threatening – struggle.”
It doesn’t need to be this way. Alabama Republicans could absolutely make giving birth safer in their state. They’re choosing not to. They’re choosing to ensure that giving birth stays dangerous for mothers and babies in order to offer healthcare executives ill-gotten profits. And they’re choosing to make terminating a pregnancy more dangerous as well.