As Mayor Bloomberg’s ban against large size sodas gets stricken down, Mississippi takes the “anti-Bloomberg approach by forbidding any law to ban any nutritional or food item. The bill known as the “anti-Bloomberg” law because well, it’s the exact opposite of the New York trans fat ban and large size sugary drink ban, passed the Mississippi Senate by a vote of 50-1. It passed the Mississippi House 92-26 and is being reviewed by the Governor. According to the Robert Johnson Foundation, Mississippi has the highest obesity rate in the entire country with 35% obesity.
While I believed Mayor Bloomberg’s ban on sugar drink size and the exemptions left something to be desired, I didn’t think that another state would pass the opposite law the day after New York’s law was struck down. While I questioned New York City’s law, I give New York credit for trying to do something about the obesity war against children and adults. New York may be having to re-think its law while Mississippi is out on a limb assisting in the obesity epidemic. If obesity didn’t cause illness, disease and take lives, the Mississippi bill would be a laughing matter. And it’s ironic that Mississippi did the exact opposite with its abortion laws–practically banned abortion.
Obesity affects a large percentage of all Americans with African Americans being harder hit. Studies from 2007 show that 39% if black women are either overweight or obese. And the propensity to be obese is higher in the south with over 30% adults as obese. Obesity is defined as having a body mass index over 30%. In a day and age, where many people do not have health insurance, the burden of taking care of those hardest hit with obesity related diseases falls on the state. And Mississippi is in no financial position to flaunt its anti-Bloomberg law. Mississippi is also the 45th state with the highest unemployment out of 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Education, exercise and some government intervention is needed. Everyone has a right to eat themselves to death. On the one hand is the argument that government should not regulate our food choices. On the other hand, I wish that the Mississippi lawmakers would put as much effort in protecting our food choices as they do in a woman’s right to choose reproductive choices. While Mississippi forbids any food to be banned, if signed into law by the Governor, it has almost closed all choices by women to have a say over their reproductive rights and their own body when it comes to abortion. A Mississippi law passed in July, 2012 almost closed all options for women there to obtain an abortion. Governor Bryan said regarding closing options for women to choose said in July, 2012, “Today you see the first step in a movement, I believe, to do what we campaigned on — to say that we’re going to try to end abortion in Mississippi.”
It’s unfortunate that Mississippi could not extend options for a woman’s right to choose her own reproductive rights in Mississippi but will allow all available food options for women to eat whatever she wants. As Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood said of Mississippi’s abortion ban earlier this year, ““In yet another shortsighted attempt to ban abortion in Mississippi, Governor Bryant and lawmakers are putting their ideology above the health and safety of Mississippi women. This law is bad policy and endangers women’s health.” And the same can be said of the proposed law to forbid banning any food or nutritional item, regardless how unhealthy.
Debbie Hines is an attorney and blogger who is frequently seen in the media addressing issues on women and race. She also contributes to the Huffington Post blog and the Women’s Media Center blog. She appears on local and national TV and radio on law and politics affecting gender and race.