The XX Factor

Secessionists and Other States’ Rights Loons Hurt Health Care

Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal is threatening to roadblock his state’s health care exchange.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Jeff Turrentine here at Slate looks at the pernicious myth that Texas has a right to secede from the Union (they don’t), which is cropping up again in the wake of Obama’s re-election, as the White House website is being barraged with petitions from citizens who object yet again to the election of an Illinois politician who promises racial progress, and want out. Obviously, a handful of right wing cranks who have nothing better to do than troll a hated administration will simply not be getting any real movement on these secession efforts, but that doesn’t mean that this entire situation isn’t cause for concern. Nostalgia for the Confederacy creates real political and social problems, namely in creating the political myth that states can simply reject federal legislation if they want to, which has actual implications for the Affordable Care Act going forward.

Already a number of Republican governors are dealing with pressure from hard right constituents to resist implementing Obamacare as much as they can, particularly focusing on refusing to set up state exchanges on the presumption that doing so will overwhelm the federal government and stall out the new law. Some of them suggested that they’re on board with this plan, but right now, it looks like most are getting cold feet, except Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, who claims he’s going to refuse to create the exchange this week. States also have to decide if they’re going to accept the Medicaid expansion, which the Alabama governor has refused alongside the state exchange.

The former Confederate states already perform poorly on many measures of citizen’s health compared to other states, and this kind of ideological posturing about “states rights” can’t help. Women and children will likely suffer the most, as is customary in these kinds of situations. Just this morning, Mississippi yet again topped the list of states with high infant mortality, with over nine babies per 1,000 dying before their first birthday. The teen pregnancy rate seems to drift upwards as you move south, as does the unplanned pregnancy rate. Both are associated with higher negative health outcomes for both mothers and children. Guess it’s easy for these conservative governors to preen about states rights, when it’s someone else who will be paying the price for their ideology.