PRESS RELEASE: Georgia Must Reinforce Health and Safety Net Ecosystem in The Wake of The 11th Circuit Decision

RELEASE: Georgia Must Reinforce Health and Safety Net Ecosystem in The Wake of The 11th Circuit Decision

ATLANTA — In response to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit’s decision last week to allow Georgia’s House Bill 481 to go into effect following the Supreme Court’s overruling of Roe v. Wade, the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute (GBPI) released the following statement:

Georgia’s safety net is already failing, and these court actions will make it even harder for women and birthing people to access the health care they need. Georgia’s health and social safety net ecosystem for those who can get pregnant has been underperforming for decades, and the state continues to have stark rates of maternal mortality and infant mortality, which disproportionately impact Black women and children and those living in rural communities. Georgians deserve access to abortion and programs that allow everyone to fully thrive – both must be true for us to achieve economic justice for all.

“It’s imperative to recognize the implications that the Dobbs decision and the actions of the 11th circuit will have on Georgia’s women and birthing people, especially Georgia’s Black and Brown women who already face substantial barriers to health care access and economic stability. Georgia’s lawmakers have refused to adequately invest in child care infrastructure, ignored opportunities to invest in Georgia families and workers, and failed to shore up Georgia’s safety net framework. HB 481 and its restriction of access to safe abortions will only serve as another barrier implemented by state leaders to limit health care access,” said GBPI President and CEO, Staci Fox. “GBPI is a fact-based organization, and the fact is abortion is part of the full spectrum of comprehensive, evidence-based health care. As we continue to push for the reinstitution of full reproductive rights, there are many policy-level shifts that can better support people now in having children (or not having children) and parenting those children in Georgia. Abortion should be legal and accessible in Georgia, and our state should be fully and equitably funding all programs that support children, birthing people and their families.”

The National Partnership for Women & Families estimates that approximately 870,900 reproductive-age women in Georgia are economically insecure, which means that they live in a family below 200 percent of the federal poverty line. This decision strips away access to health care, restricts people’s reproductive choices, and has damaging implications for women, birthing people, and children. With abortion banned, reinforcing Georgia’s health and social safety net ecosystem should be a top priority.

GBPI recommends the following policies as a starting point in Georgia’s investment in women and families:

Medicaid Expansion

The Affordable Care Act made it possible for Georgia to expand Medicaid access to anyone whose income is below 138% of the federal poverty level, but state lawmakers have failed to adopt full Medicaid expansion—leaving thousands of Georgians of reproductive age without access to basic health care. Fully expanding Medicaid could increase access to contraception and preconception care, stabilize rural health providers, and help address our state’s dismal rates of maternal and infant mortality.

Expanding Access To Paid Leave

A broad paid family and medical leave policy would improve worker retention, mental and physical health, and economic wellbeing for those who can get pregnant and their families. Research shows that a lack of paid leave can negatively impact worker retention and can limit the time working mothers who would like to breastfeed their babies.

Georgia does not have a paid family medical leave program that supports all workers in the state. In 2021, the General Assembly passed HB 146, a mere three weeks of paid parental leave for state, University System of Georgia, and public-school employees.

About 43 percent of Black workers and 25 percent of Latino workers have access to any paid parental leave. Many people of color cannot even take advantage of the unpaid Family Medical Leave Act.

  • This stems from occupational segregation, where women, particularly women of color, are more likely to work in jobs that pay below a living wage and do not provide benefits.
  • Gender discrimination in hiring is compounded by race and ethnicity as well, where women of color are far more likely to face discrimination on the basis of both gender and race.

In addition, in Georgia, FMLA is inaccessible to the majority (59%) of all working adults, either because they are not eligible or because they cannot afford to take leave without pay.

Making Child Care Affordable And Accessible

Making child care affordable and accessible for more families can make it easier for those who can get pregnant to balance their caregiving responsibilities, allowing them to enter or stay in the workforce and advance their careers. The latest data show about 1 in 7 Georgia children who are income-eligible for child care assistance can access subsidies.

While Georgia has temporarily expanded its Childcare and Parent Services (subsidies) program using federal relief dollars, many families are still left out, making child care a high expense for many mothers.

Creating A State-Level Earned Income Tax Credit, Or Georgia Work Credit

Women make up 48 percent of Georgia’s workforce but are more likely to work in fields with low pay. Women of color are more likely than white women to be in low-wage sectors, furthering pay gaps and making it hard to keep up with expenses.

Enacting the Georgia Work Credit, a state Earned Income Tax Credit, can provide a modest wage enhancement that helps their wages go further in covering their rent and bills or saving for a rainy day. It can also help women who own small businesses because it increases take-home pay for employees and leads to a ripple effect, with more in their community frequenting their business.

Implementing Comprehensive Sex Education In Georgia’s Schools

Comprehensive Sex Education can prevent unwanted pregnancies, and well-designed courses can reduce risky behaviors and improve health outcomes for students. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed Georgia’s policies around school-based sexual health education and found multiple areas that need to be addressed to align the law with evidence-based practices.
GBPI calls on our lawmakers to enact proactive policies that support women and birthing people at every stage of their life and no matter their role in our economy, while also eradicating racial inequities that exacerbate these injustices for women of color. GBPI asserts that there is no economic justice without reproductive justice.

GBPI’s Senior Policy Analysts Ife Finch Floyd and Stephen Owens provide deeper dives into landscape analysis and policy recommendations:

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