One of the first things Governor Kristi Noem teed up to celebrate the Alito Court’s negation of pregnant women’s constitutional right to bodily autonomy was a new state website, Life.SD.gov, “to give women the resources they need to navigate pregnancy, birth, parenting, and adoption, if they choose.”
Governor Noem’s new loving website directs pregnant women to the religious propaganda mills Black Hills Pregnancy Center and Alpha Center. For years, the state has tried to force women seeking abortions to submit to “counseling” at the hands of the state’s favored religious zealots who run these centers. With abortion now mostly illegal in South Dakota, what point do these misinformation centers serve, other than harvesting personal data that the state can use to track these pregnant women and make sure they don’t seek legal abortions in other states? (Remember, crisis pregnancy centers aren’t real clinics, so they aren’t bound by HIPAA, and anything you say to them can and will be used against you by the theocracy when it hauls you off to the gestation camps.)
Noem’s new website does not provide new parents with any information about public preschool, since South Dakota is one of six states that does not fund preschool. The federal Head Start program serves 2.5% of our three year olds and 5.4% of our four year olds, compared to the national rate of 7.0% of three year olds and 31.6% of four year olds getting Head Start or state preschool.
If those pregnant moms find the low wages they find on the state’s website don’t cover the cost of pre-natal care, delivery, and parenting, Noem does offer links to actual financial assistance, most of which are funded by federal dollars, not South Dakota’s own willingness to invest in moms and children.
Noem’s new website includes a section on adoption, but the first link, to Adoption Services—”Learn everything you need to know”—goes to the Department of Social Services “Adoption Services” page, which seems to focus on telling parents how to adopt children, not how to place their children for adoption. Likewise the second link, “Questions about Adoption? Find your answers here,” which goes to the DSS Adoption FAQ page, which tells us about “Adopting a Child through DSS,” “Post Finalization of a Child Adopted with DSS,” and “Information for Attorneys and People Adopting Privately” but give any guidance to pregnant moms considering placing their babies for adoption. The state then offers links to a variety of private organizations, including the Sioux Falls Catholic Diocese’s “Lourdes Center,” which professes to offer “A Catholic approach to human flourishing” but whose home page says not one word about adoption services, practical guidance for pregnant women, or anything else about what specific services the recently renamed Catholic Family Services may offer.
Women who are sure they want to place their child for adoption may get the clearest practical guidance on terminating their parental rights from the last link on the Adoption page, the DSS information about “Safe Havens.” Under laws enacted in 2001 (SDCL 25-5A-27 through 25-5A-35), a new parent may surrender her or his child (like most other states with Safe Haven laws, South Dakota’s statute does not specify mother or father) to an emergency medical services provider or child placement agency anonymously and without legal penalty. This surrender must take place within 60 days of the child’s birth. To qualify for legal immunity, the parent must deliver the child unharmed. The provider or agency receiving the child may ask about the child’s medical history, but the parent does not have to provide any information. The parent has 14 days to reconsider, but after 14 days, the child becomes a ward of the state or the agency receiving the child and the parent’s rights are terminated.
Hospitals, clinics (real clinics, not crisis pregnancy centers), law enforcement officers, EMTs, and firefighters may accept babies under the safe haven law. Governor Noem does not say she’ll take babies, but perhaps that’s an item to consider for the upcoming Special Session on abortion: amend SDCL 25-5A-27 to add to South Dakota’s safe havens the Governor’s mansion, the House and Senate chambers during Session, and the homes and offices of legislators. The Governor’s mansion would be a great place for newborns, what with that new fence to keep them safe. And our legislators would be good providers of safe-haven care for infants—they are just part-time public officials. If the cost of caring for a surprise baby or two is too much for legislators, they can always get a job.