The South Dakota Department of Health offers a Family Planning Program to provide affordable birth control, screenings for sexually transmitted diseases, client education and counseling, annual exams, and other reproduction-related services. The program uses federal Title X family planning and Maternal Child Health Grant money and private donations to subsidize services, for which it charges based on family size and income. 18 clinics in 16 of South Dakota’s 66 counties offer these state-supported services.
The state was supporting family planning services at a 19th site, in Mobridge, but evidently cut that site last month:
Last month, the director for the Family Planning Program sent a letter to patients of Walworth County Public Health Alliance in Mobridge, informing them that the program would no longer be available starting August 1. The letter said all patient care would be transferred to other locations and named Aberdeen and Eagle Butte as the closest clinics.
There’s just one problem, the drive from Mobridge to the Aberdeen clinic is 100 miles away.
MacKenzie Walsh-Keeley is a registered nurse at Horizon Aberdeen Community Health Center. Walsh-Keeley said she’s seen an uptick in patients looking for reproductive health care after the other clinics closed their program.
“We’ve been much busier since they closed,” she said.” All those patients that were in the family program there have come over here now” [Gracie Terrall, “ACLU Concerned About Family Planning Clinics Closing,” KELO-TV, 2023.08.30].
Hmmm… infant mortality is up in South Dakota, in part due to syphilis, which is surging along with other STDs here at a rate outpacing the rest of the nation. Syphilis is especially problematic in Indian Country, which Mobridge is well-positioned to serve. But the state is pulling back on affordable services that could combat STDs and infant mortality?
Related Reading: We should also expect a swift cut, or at least an edit, to the Department of Health’s Reproductive Health webpage. The first informative link provided in the main text, under “Contraceptive Services”, invites South Dakotans to “Learn more about birth control, relationships, and other sexual health topics with Bedsider.”
First, I’m surprised the Republican Taliban still allows the Department of Health to even mention contraception, let alone provide funding to help South Dakotans get it. But even better, a click on that blue button to Learn More opens Bedsider.org, whose top four headline links invite users to check out birth control options, find a health center, get birth control delivered, and find an abortion provider:
So even though South Dakota bans abortion, the state Department of Health still provides information to help women find health care facilities that will provide this “common and safe medical procedure.” How nice of the Department of Health… and, I suspect, how fleeting.