As of today, there are no hospitals in all of Shelby County with a maternity ward. Within two weeks, the same can be said of Monroe County.
Even before these closures, the same could be said of more than 20 counties in this state.
Did you get that? More than a third of Alabama counties lack the proper medical facilities and staffing to deliver a baby.
Women in labor in those counties have two options: Drive up to 100 miles to find a hospital with a birthing center or rely on the emergency room of a hospital that lacks the specialized care necessary to properly treat pregnant women and newborns.
This is the reality in a state with the absolute worst rate of maternal mortality in the country and the fourth worst rate of infant mortality. And that’s before Alabama’s draconian abortion ban will force more young, impoverished mothers, including those who were the victims of rape or incest, to deliver babies.
This affects Black families, white families, Hispanic families, poor families, rich families, middle class families. It affects conservatives and liberals. It affects Democrats and Republicans and Libertarians.
It is a crisis. A very, very real one.
And yet, the biggest controversy in Shelby County over the last year – as Shelby Baptist Medical Center prepared to close the only labor and delivery unit in the county – was about the damn library and the harm that might come to children from reading books.
Not one of the state reps or senators elected from Shelby County have uttered a word that I can find about the closures or the negative impact they’ll have on the residents of that county.
And that juxtaposition – between the real crisis of closing birthing centers and struggling rural hospitals and the phony crises of books, CRT, transgender children playing sports and etc., etc., etc. – is how we ended up here.
The majority of voters in this state, compelled by one fabricated, fictional rightwing crisis after another, ignored the everyday realities facing them and were led by the nose into a bucket of BS. Over and over and over.
Time and again, they chose politics over reality.
There are no better examples of this than the state’s decision to decline to expand Medicaid under Obamacare and the implementation of our abortion law.
Medicaid expansion would have solved nearly all of our medical services crises that we currently face. It would have generated tens of thousands of jobs, created a healthier workforce, driven up school performances and more than paid for the costs of expansion. It likely would have saved every rural hospital that has closed in the last decade and very likely would have saved at least some of these birthing centers.
The expansion is also popular with voters. Even Republican voters.
But here’s the thing: There’s a difference between something being popular with voters and something being punishable by voters.
The Republicans in our state legislature don’t fear punishment from voters over failing to expand Medicaid. Or even from the very obvious consequences that we’re now experiencing from failing to expand. They know that between the nationalization of politics at the local level and the fictional crises – not to mention a whole lot of gerrymandering – that they’ve got you hooked.
They’ve counted on you being too dumb to realize that you’re only screwing yourselves, and so far that’s been a very good gamble.
At the same time, nothing gives away the emptiness and hypocrisy of GOP politics better than Alabama’s abortion law. Never in a million years, as they were proclaiming their undying support for “babies,” did Alabama’s conservative lawmakers imagine a day in which the law became a reality. Roe v. Wade was always going to save them from their empty rhetoric about valuing human life in the same state that wants to test an execution method on a human.
Once it did pass, they were stuck. And yet, despite the law’s overwhelming unpopularity among voters, there have been few, if any, consequences for the Alabama Republicans who passed it and who have refused to alter it.
Because the truth is, in this state, it’s not about the babies. It’s not about the health care. It’s not about the truth, or the everyday realities. It’s not about the issues that you and your families face on a daily basis. It’s not about the uphill battles you face.
The politicians in control of this state do not rely on serving you or on addressing your problems or removing the impediments to success for all of us. No, they rely on one thing and one thing only.
They rely on you continuing to be a sucker.
Until the day you’re not, the babies will die, the mothers will suffer, the working class will continue to get stiffed and the state will continue to be first in everything bad and last in everything good.