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Pro-life groups praise Mississippi for 8 new 'culture of life' laws

Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves signed eight pro-life bills into law Wednesday that will strengthen the state's foster care system, speed up adoptions and provide resources to pregnant women.

After successfully defending the right of states to regulate abortion at the Supreme Court, Mississippi enacted eight new laws Wednesday that Republican Gov. Tate Reeves says will make adoption easier, strengthen the foster care system and increase support for pro-life pregnancy centers as alternatives to abortion clinics

"Mississippi has moved to the next phase in our pursuit to build a culture of life," Reeves said during a signing ceremony. "That phase is the new pro-life agenda. ... This next phase will not be easy, and it will not be free. But it is the right thing to do."

Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban was the focus of a landmark Supreme Court ruling last year that overturned Roe v. Wade, ending federal protections for abortion and permitting states restrict or ban the procedure. Following the court's decision, an older abortion ban on the books went into effect, outlawing most abortions in the state and forcing its lone abortion clinic to close. 

Health officials project that up to 5,000 additional children will be born in Mississippi without the option for women to terminate their pregnancies. Mississippi is one of the country's poorest states, and it has the highest fetal mortality and infant mortality rates in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — statistics Reeves did not mention during his bill-signing ceremony Wednesday.

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In his State of the State address earlier this year, Reeves introduced a series of bills he signed into law Wednesday that will provide additional resources to expectant mothers and make it easier for unwanted children to find homes with families who will care for them. 

Among them are a "foster parents bill of rights," intended to increase transparency for foster parents about their rights and responsibilities; a "baby drop-off law" that increases the age that children can be dropped off at safe haven baby boxes; "path to permanency" legislation that establishes the Department of Child Protection Services (MDCPS) as a separate agency, granting it access to additional federal funds; and a bill that gives MDCPS its largest budget in state history. 

Reeves also signed Senate Bill 2696, which creates an income tax credit of up to $10,000 for adopting a child who lives in Mississippi and $5,000 for adopting a child from outside the state. It becomes law July 1. 

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House Bill 1671 expands Mississippi's tax credit for donations to pro-life pregnancy centers across the state from $3.5 million to $10 million. These centers provide diapers, clothing, counseling and other needs to pregnant women.

Additionally, Senate Bill 2781 creates a state website that will direct pregnant women to resources and organizations in Mississippi that will help them and their children. 

Pro-life groups commended the governor and state legislature for advancing these proposals into law. 

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"The state that restored the right of the people and elected leaders to protect unborn children makes history again today, as Governor Reeves signs eight pro-life safety net measures into law," SBA Pro-Life America Southern Regional Director Caitlin Connors said in a press release. "Through its Gestational Age Act, the life at conception protection that is now in effect, and more policies and programs that help families, it’s incredible to see how much ground Mississippi has covered in the course of a year to protect the unborn and serve their mothers in the Dobbs era."

"In signing an incredible eight bills that provide aid to mothers and babies and make the adoption process easier, Gov. Tate Reeves is modeling the kind of nation the U.S. could be – one that takes care of its most vulnerable citizens instead of killing them for being unexpected, inconvenient or expensive. Mississippi is showing us what a culture of life looks like," said Priests for Life National Director Frank Pavone.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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