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Opinion | The price of ignorance

For a long time now in Alabama, we have let ignorance be our guide. The bill has been steep.

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Ignorance is expensive. 

Just take a look around Alabama – a state dominated by an ultra-conservative legislature that has spent the last several sessions passing legislation meant to demean, discriminate and impose alleged Christian religious beliefs on everyone else. (I say “alleged” because, while those pushing the beliefs proclaim Christianity, their actions – and their callous disregard for others – would suggest they’re wholly unfamiliar with the basic teachings of that religion.)

The ignorance – of decency, of basic freedoms, of the law – is often staggering to behold. And the results are … about what you’d expect. 

For years, we have resisted all calls to expand Medicaid in this state, leaving somewhere around 300,000 Alabamians in a coverage gap hell, reliant upon ER care – the most expensive care known to man – for basic illnesses and for prenatal and maternal care. In addition to poor health outcomes, the refusal has led to dozens of rural hospitals closing across Alabama, further limiting access. 

The Alabama Policy Institute – a group that, despite its tax-exempt status that allegedly requires that it remain nonpartisan, has never advocated for anything that wasn’t far-right and awful, and that receives a large portion of its revenue from a national Christian organization – has been front and center arguing against expansion, because, according to its director, providing poor people with basic care would encourage them not to work. Because, you know, Jesus was famous for only healing the gainfully employed. 

But while such God-awfulness is apparently rewarded in today’s brand of Christianity, it costs the rest of us plenty. 

Alabama routinely ranks as one of the worst states for maternal and prenatal care, and it has an infant mortality rate that would make a third-world country blush. Just Tuesday I was sent another study from ValuePenguin that looked at a variety of factors to score states’ access to prenatal and maternal care. 

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Guess which state was DFL? 

Specifically, the survey found that Alabama ranked lowest – by more than 40 percent of the national average – for care providers. 

It seems – and stop me if you’ve heard this – that doctors aren’t exactly packing up their stethoscopes to come practice here. It seems they like to be paid for their work, and uninsured patients – especially hundreds of thousands of them – don’t keep the rent paid. 

And it’s about to get worse. Way, way worse. 

Following the Dobbs decision – the U.S. Supreme Court decision in which some rightwing justices decided that Roe v. Wade wasn’t settled law – the National Association of Women’s Health Practitioners began monitoring the applications for OBGYN licenses in states with draconian abortion laws. 

Alabama has one of those laws. One of the worst, in fact. It bans abortions and doesn’t provide exceptions for rape or incest. 

Last year, according to the NAWHP, license applications for OBGYNs in Alabama fell a whopping 21 percent. 

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While applications from new doctors fell across the board nationally, Alabama’s decrease was more than double the national average. 

And they’re not the only ones leaving. 

Another survey, this one by Hire A Helper, tracked the movements of educated people across the U.S. Specifically, they wanted to see where people moved – and where they moved from – when their advanced degrees opened up opportunities for them. 

Not Alabama. 

In fact, the state lost 45 percent more well-educated people than those who moved in. A remarkable loss of smart people that ranked Alabama 10th worst. 

That’s doctors and lawyers and engineers and pretty much anyone with an opportunity to choose a place to live. 

Now, obviously, other factors go into that. Such as job opportunities and associated pay. Alabama ranks at the bottom of that list, too. We’re 49th in per capita income, which probably stems from our right-wing lawmakers fighting unions and selling the Alabama workforce as cheap labor. 

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It’s a perpetual cycle of poverty and suffering that we don’t seem destined to break, since the majority of voters continue to elect the people who put us in these positions. 

That’s ignorance. And it has a steep, steep price.

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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