Within all of the sociopolitical debate and new laws virtually outlawing abortion across the country, some of the nation’s most restrictive states are also home to some of the most progressive historically black colleges in areas of women’s health promotion and outreach.
MSNBC recently profiled six states with some of the furthest reaching anti-abortion laws, which also have some of the nation’s worst outcomes in areas of women’s health and infant mortality.
The average national infant mortality rate in 2017 was 5.8 per 1,000 live births, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Missouri’s was higher at 6.2 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. Louisiana’s was at 7.1 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. Georgia and Ohio’s rates were at 7.2 deaths per 1,000 live births, and Alabama’s reached 7.4 deaths per 1,000 births.
But Mississippi had the highest infant mortality rate in the nation — at 8.6 deaths per 1,000 live births.
If these states are serious about preserving life and extending the constitutional right to life, then these regions should be ideal targets for increased federal and state appropriations supporting women’s health and sexual wellness.
Jackson State University has Mississippi’s only accredited school of public health, which in 2017 received a $50,000 grant to execute outreach and research in areas of pregnancy prevention among teenage women. This work is in addition to work the school does to boost education, employment and family planning outcomes among women throughout the capital city and its outlying counties and towns.
These efforts are similar to those at Central State University through its agricultural cooperative extension program. Schools like Albany State University and Southern University offer women’s health as a professional training track within their nursing programs.
The battle over the morality and politics of abortion has lasted for generations, and will likely last for many more. But women having more information, expanded healthcare and community advocacy is a bipartisan, agnostic standard which HBCUs have long helped to push without investment and with specific concern for under-resourced communities.
Activism for protecting women and children doesn’t end with outlawing abortion; such regulation is just the beginning of funding support for organizations that work with women and families before pregnancy to boost the potential of responsible actions, choices, and lives.