VIDEO: Fred Clarkson Explains the Fight for Religious Freedom

The concerted effort by the Religious Right to redefine Religious Freedom is steadily making its way through the courts and legislators. Political Research Associates’ senior fellow, Fred Clarkson, explains why all Americans (religious and non-religious alike), should be paying attention.

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Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Race and Child Care in Mississippi

Fifty years after the March on Washington, conservatives, libertarians, and even some White liberals have heralded the arrival of a “postracial” era, in which racism—conceived as behavior occurring between individuals—has been replaced by a new frame of “colorblindness.”

Jean V. Hardisty's hard-hitting new report focuses on child care and structural racism in Mississippi.

Jean V. Hardisty’s hard-hitting new report focuses on child care and structural racism in Mississippi.

Jean V. Hardisty challenges this simplistic understanding of racism in her new report, Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Race and Child Care in Mississippi. Founder and president emerita of Political Research Associates, Hardisty analyzes how the colorblind frame operates “to preserve the pre-civil rights power structure and the racial inequality of resources and access.” She explores Mississippi—the “ground zero” of structural racism in the United States, according to Hardisty—and focuses on child care for poor and low-income mothers as a case study.

Poverty runs deep in Mississippi, especially among African Americans, and its effects are reflected in the state’s health statistics. Mississippi ranks last in the U.S. in child welfare. Life expectancy and other health measures are substantially worse for African Americans, who comprise 37.2 percent of Mississippi’s total population but account for 55 percent of its low-income households. Black women are disproportionately represented among welfare recipients.

Subsidized child care—a proven and highly effective means of breaking intergenerational cycles of poverty—should be a critical site of intervention and funding for Mississippi’s policymakers. But far from combatting legacies of racial inequality, the state’s child-care system reflects and further perpetuates structural racism. Young mothers must navigate a highly bureaucratic, burdensome application and renewal process. Official language, often openly hostile and stigmatizing, reflects broader efforts to portray welfare recipients as conniving, sinful, lazy, and unintelligent.

Hardisty contextualizes Mississippi’s child-care system as the most recent iteration of the Right’s extensive record of hypocrisy—for example, claiming to promote “family values” while criticizing poor women for not working while receiving welfare benefits. Hardisty also notes how the Right has shifted funding for child-care and welfare programs toward block grants that are controlled by the states, thus undermining federal programs that benefit poor women of color. She connects Mississippi’s current policies and protocols to the Right’s historical demonization of the poor.

The report concludes by identifying several strategies for strengthening Mississippi’s system. Recommendations include minimizing the bureaucratic and administrative hurdles that shame women and make it difficult for them to receive subsidies; allocating more resources to the nonprofit sector, which can provide advocacy and social services, push for systemic reforms, and challenge block-grant funding systems; and increasing the transparency and efficiency of the child-care certificate programs and regulatory mechanisms.

Mississippi is emblematic of the challenges facing women of color and antipoverty programs across the country. And while no panacea, her report makes clear that child-care subsidies are essential in combatting intergenerational poverty. You can find her full report—which includes strategies for strengthening Mississippi’s system—on both the website of the Wellesley Centers for Women and her personal website,

This “report in review” also appears in the Fall 2013 issue of The Public Eye magazine.

**Rebecca Suldan contributed to this post**

From The Archives: Laying Siege to the Last Abortion Clinic in Mississippi

The Jackson Women's Health Organization Photo credit: ROGELIO V. SOLIS/AP

The Jackson Women’s Health Organization
Photo credit: ROGELIO V. SOLIS/AP

Back in 2006, contributor Michelle Goldberg wrote an article for the Public Eye Magazine discussing the attacks on, and the resiliency of the last standing women’s health clinic in Mississippi. As new developments continue to unfold, the piece remains as relevant today as it was when it was first written.

The siege of Mississippi’s last remaining abortion clinic has been fought for nine years, bringing the state perilously close to lacking abortion provision. From threatening demonstrations outside the clinic by organizations like Operation Save America, to recent judicial battles over complying with targeted abortion regulations, the anti-choice movement in Mississippi has been trying to ensure that the Jackson Women’s Health Organization will be closed down. Thanks in part to the amazing effort of its staff and volunteers, Mississippians are still able to exercise their reproductive rights. At this time of widespread anti-choice legislation in many states, the existence of only a single abortion clinic in Mississippi reminds us both that we are not far from a position where some won’t have access to a safe and legal abortion, and that there is still time to counter the anti-choice movement and ensure that safe and legal abortion is available in every state.

While the Mississippi anti-choice movement does everything it can to block women’s civil rights, the state also happens to have second highest rate of teenage pregnancy in the country and widespread child poverty. Access to abortions is already limited by the high cost and long travel times, and if women were forced to travel out of state, the cost would only increase and more women would be priced out of their reproductive rights.

With abortion clinics closing at an unprecedented rate, largely due to targeted regulation, communities across the country face loss of access not only to abortion but to the basic healthcare and contraceptive care these clinics often provide. Where anti-choice protests and threats have failed to close these clinics, small pieces of legislation dictating requirements that are near-impossible to implement have forced them to close. Whilst the Jackson Women’s Health Organization faces severe problems with sidewalk anti-choice protesters, including death threats, the work of volunteers in supporting women against this backdrop of intimidation helps negate their effect.The protesters’ actions are certainly unpleasant, but these protests tend not to close clinics, although they may dissuade patients. Similarly, legislation that enforces waiting times, invasive ultrasounds, and the reading of medically inaccurate warnings aims to prevent women from choosing or going through with an abortion. In many cases, it is punitive legislation” that makes it very difficult for abortion clinics to operate, and is forcing them to close.

The statement by an Terri Herring, president of Pro-Life Mississippi,that “this is so we can lay the groundwork and set the stage, then any state can do so” underlines the symbolic importance of the possible closure of the Jackson clinic. Whilst there may be larger deserts of abortion provision, for Mississippi to potentially have no abortion provision undermines Roe vs. Wade and could lead to similar legislation and legal challenges in other states. The report reminds us that, “the right to an abortion doesn’t mean much if there’s no way to get one.”


Read our full 2006 report by Michelle Goldberg (