JACKSON • House Speaker Philip Gunn on Tuesday revealed that a bipartisan coalition of 10 lawmakers are a part of his “Commission on Life,” which is meant to propose new pro-life policies for the House to adopt next year.
But it’s still unclear who else is on the commission, what their background is or even if a full commission has been formed.
Gunn, a Republican, revealed in June he was creating such a commission to recommend new legislation after the U.S. Supreme Court’s eliminated the constitutional right to an abortion.
The speaker initially said that the commission would be composed of House members along with experts on policy, women’s health, adoption and child protection.
The House members serving on the committee are:
- Otis Anthony (D – Indianola)
- Cedric Burnett (D – Tunica)
- Angela Cockerham (I- Magnolia)
- Kevin Felsher (R – Biloxi)
- Jill Ford (R - Madison)
- Debra Gibbs (D – Jackson)
- Missy McGee (R – Hattiesburg)
- Dana Underwood McLean (R – Columbus)
- Sam C. Mims (R – McComb)
- Lee Yancey (R – Brandon)
The three-term speaker told reporters at the Neshoba County Fair in July that he would publicly release the names of the full commission members, but he was still finalizing the full list of the advisory board participants at that time.
“We’re trying to determine what are the issues there and what are the things we need to do,” Gunn previously said about the commission. “I’m consulting with the people that I think need to be consulted with. But I’m inviting them to tell me who all needs to be invited in.”
Mississippi, the poorest state in the nation, leads the nation in negative infant and maternal mortality rates, leaves swaths of the population without access to an OB-GYN, and does not have a robust system of child care assistance.
Gunn’s office said in a press release that the commission believes families are the best place for children, the private sector is the best group to address family problems and that the state government must improve its services, though it believes those services should be limited.
Some of the legislation the group is considering includes:
- Expanding the tax credit for crisis pregnancy centers.
- Making adoption more readily available and affordable.
- Incentivizing employers to employ mothers during and after their pregnancy.
“The Dobbs ruling presents Mississippi with the opportunity and responsibility to work with one another on building and supporting the families of unplanned pregnancies and the families once the child is born,” Gunn said in a statement. “Mississippi has an opportunity to lead the nation in protecting, promoting, and supporting life.”
Now that the constitutional right to an abortion has been eliminated, Mississippi bans all abortions except when the mother’s health is in question or if a person has filed a report with law enforcement officers that they were raped.
In the Capitol’s other chamber, nine state senators on the Senate Study Group on Women, Children and Families are preparing to conduct the first of four public hearings later this month. The committee has asked for written input from the public.
It’s unclear who exactly will testify at the Senate hearing, but the committee’s leader, Republican Sen. Nicole Boyd of Oxford, has previously said she wants to approach maternal healthcare with a more holistic lens.
Boyd also recently conducted meetings at the state Capitol with Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Randolph, Child Protection Services Commissioner Andrea Sanders and others.
“The reason that we have to comprehensively look at this is we need to be as systemic as possible in our approach,” Boyd previously told the Daily Journal. “We lead the country in the wrong direction when it comes to early childhood metrics.”
Gunn’s latest announcement and Boyd’s hearings come just four months shy of the 2023 legislative session, which will begin in early January.