Editor’s note: The League of Women Voters-East Central Mississippi posed the following healthcare questions to Senate District 33 candidates Jeff Tate and Bubby Johnston.
How would you improve women’s reproductive health choices in a state that is nationally ranked 50th in maternal health and is experiencing an increase in infant mortality rate?
Is the quality of health care that the women in your family receive available, accessible, and affordable to all Mississippi women?
Jeff Tate: Let’s be honest here- this question is poised as a pro-choice question. I want to make my stance known and make my stance clear: I will stand for men and women’s health- specifically unborn babies who are at risk of being murdered. I am pro-life.
I fully support the heartbeat bill, and I will support any legislation that will further protect unborn babies. I will support a permanent ban on funding and subsidies for abortion and healthcare plans that include abortion coverage.
When speaking of maternal health and infant mortality rates, I believe that education about prenatal care is vital to the health and well-being of both mother and child. Because the leading cause of infant mortality is low birth weight or early delivery, education about eating healthy, consuming alcohol, stopping smoking, and recognizing signs of distress in the baby are important for the best quality care for the infant.
Furthermore, education concerning the necessity of check-ups is necessary. I look forward to reviewing legislation that will increase the awareness of mothers concerning their health and the health of their baby. I believe that health education is vital because it enables people to make informed decisions on a daily basis and decreases hospital and doctor visits.
Educating mothers about the services already available to them is also necessary. There are many services that the public is unaware of, including rural clinics, pregnancy centers, WIC, etc. These services are already in place, but they are underutilized by new parents. When infants receive adequate care, infant mortality rates will decrease.
In addition to education, increasing the quality and lowering the cost of healthcare would greatly benefit mothers. Medical malpractice lawsuits have inflated the cost of healthcare for everyone. But the residents of Mississippi have felt a greater impact because most of our state is rural.
Rural medicine is greatly affected by malpractice lawsuits and the ballooning cost of healthcare because doctors, including obstetricians, move to urban settings or retire to combat escalating insurance premiums. I support tort reform legislation in order to incentivize providers to practice in rural areas and to lower the cost of medical care.
Infant mortality rates also include the rate of death of infants who are under 1 year of age. In 2006, the rate of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (commonly known as SIDS) was at a rate of 0.55% in Mississippi. In 2006, a goal was set for 0.50% by the year 2020. In the most current data available, that rate is now at 0.38%. I think the framework is already in place to continue that trend. I will support our caregivers in our hospitals to continue that downward trend.
I believe that the quality of health care that the women in my family receive is comparable to the healthcare received by all Mississippi women.
In a study completed in 2015, Mississippi ranked in the 2nd quartile for the average differences in quality of care between races (where the 1st quartile was the best). I think Mississippi health care professionals work to provide the same standard of care to anyone who walks through the door.