MERIDIAN — Is Mississippi only pro-life when it’s easy? Or are we pro-life when it’s hard, too?

I am led to ask these questions by two occurrences discussed below.

This first one was profiled in the Clarion Ledger last week.

“A woman died after suffering a simple asthma attack,” read the headline. “Shy Shoemaker was a 23-year-old mother who died Jan. 27 in rural Chickasaw County after her family said she suffered an asthma attack,” reads the article. “There was only one ambulance working the county that night, and the hospital’s emergency room closed down in 2014.”

“Someone dying from an asthma attack should never happen,” Ryan Kelly, executive director of the Mississippi Rural Health Association, told the newspaper.

“What happened to my cousin could have happened to anyone,” LeKearis Shoemaker said. “If there ain’t no ER, ain’t nobody (there) to help.”

The second occurrence was the following from a responder to my column last week that appeared in the Jackson Jambalaya blog.

“Never mind do hospitals need to be saved. Is it the responsibility of the taxpayers to save them, or the communities they are in, or even the people who go to them for medical care?”

“People die every day who would live if the government would intervene, and some of them die even when the government intervenes and tries to help them, so let’s not make such a big deal out of it.”

Is our pro-life position in Mississippi to let some people die and call that no big deal?

If not and we care about lives like that of the young black mother in rural Chickasaw County, our pro-life position has some hard work to do.

Why did that emergency room in the Chickasaw County hospital close? State Sen. Russell Jolly of Houston told the Clarion Ledger the hospital was forced to close its emergency room because Mississippi did not expand Medicaid. “They could not keep that emergency room open because they couldn’t get paid.” The Chickasaw Journal reported the hospital “wrote off $3 million in unpaid medical bills” the year before it closed its emergency room.

To provide access to health care in these rural areas would take some heavy lifting. We would need to provide urgent care and/or emergency room access 24/7; improve 24/7 telemedicine services; link telemedicine to first responders and provide them better equipment and training; and get more doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants into rural communities.

Like it or not, the only real money source to pay for most of this is some form of expanded Medicaid.

Most pro-life groups, including those in Mississippi, have opposed Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) because of potential funding for abortions and contraceptives.

However, in 2013, when then Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a conservative and Christian Republican, expanded Medicaid his way, the Ohio Right to Life chapter fully endorsed the expansion. “Our mission is to support life from womb to tomb,” said the chapter president.

Dare Mississippi find a way to do this?

That brings us to the ultimate pro-life challenge regarding the sacredness of life: Do we let some people die for lack of access to care, or do we help them live?

If we choose life, then we need a hard pro-life push to make Medicaid expansion happen the right way.

Bill Crawford is a Republican former state lawmaker from Meridian.

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