Congenital syphilis occurs when the infection is passed from a mother to her child while she’s pregnant. The 2021 figures Dobbs shared are the latest indicator of a growing congenital syphilis problem in Mississippi, and nationwide. In 2020, Black newborns accounted for 70% of the state’s congenital syphilis cases, despite making up about 42% of the state’s live births that year. Congenital syphilis cases can be prevented if the mother receives a series of penicillin shots at least a month before giving birth. “I don’t think many people know there is the potential for babies to die from congenital syphilis,” she said.