PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A bill to provide prenatal and postnatal care to pregnant minors without parental consent passed through the South Dakota Legislature in 2022 before meeting its end with a veto by Governor Kristi Noem.
This year, Democratic Representative Erin Healy revived the bill in hopes that it could once again advance through both chambers, but even support from the state’s largest health care provider and two medical associations wasn’t enough to advance it out of the House Health and Human Services Committee.
House Bill 1225 sought to allow pregnant minors to seek prenatal and postnatal care if their parent is either unavailable or incapable of providing consent due to a mental or physical incapacity.
Opponents of the bill took issue with the language of the bill which they called “undefined.”
“Sometimes we write bills that have unintended consequences,” Republican Representative Kevin Jensen said. He believes that a bill like Healy’s could lead to issues in the future which is why he voted to send the bill to the nonexistent 41st day of session, essentially killing it.
Republican Rep. Brandei Schaefbauer also had concerns about the language of the bill, especially the portion regarding postnatal care.
“Let’s not be naive, we know what a lot of postnatal care can be,” Schaefbauer said. “It can be prescriptions for how not to become pregnant again.”
Proponents say bill would address gap in health care
Eden Liebenthal, a community health worker in Sioux Falls, said that she worked with a pregnant minor who was seeking prenatal care for her pregnancy. Due to the fact that the minor was not living or in contact with her parents, she was unable to access such care in South Dakota and was instead referred to neighboring Minnesota where physicians would see her.
Erica Schipper, Sioux Falls OB/GYN and lobbyist for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said that while this happens infrequently, it does still happen to pregnant minors in South Dakota. Right now, OB/GYNs in the state are only allowed to provide emergency care to pregnant minors without the consent of their parents.
Republican Rep. Taylor Rehfeldt, who sits on the Health and Human Services committee, spoke of the need for the bill during a discussion among lawmakers. Rehfeldt said that both as a student and in practice as a nurse in South Dakota, she’s seen minors turned away from prenatal and postnatal care because they didn’t have a parent to consent.
“I view this legislation as a very pro-life legislation. I’m disappointed again this year that we don’t see some of those supporters and organizations coming behind a bill like this because it is about babies as well as moms,” Rehfeldt told her fellow committee members.
Rehfeldt agreed with previous proponent testimony that the pregnant minors that this bill would have impacted would be parents themselves but would not be able to make health care decisions for their pregnancy without the consent of their parents.
DOH: Not a problem in SD
Speaking passionately in opposition to the bill was newly appointed Secretary of Health, Melissa Magstra.
Magstra said that she was, at first, confused by Governor Noem’s veto of the bill in 2022 until she started looking into the origins of it. After cross-referencing national and state data regarding the number of pregnant minors with abuse and neglect statistics, Magstra said she believes that this bill would help a small number of minors.
“So that means that the overwhelming amount of pregnant teenagers have loving and caring parents who want to be involved in the health care of their children,” Magstadt said.
Neither Magstadt nor Healy could provide definitive data on how many minors in South Dakota would be impacted by this bill.
Magstadt said that she believes the bill came from out of state and was influenced by “pro-choice” organizations like Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union. Healy rebutted that claim by pointing out that neither organization was there in support of the bill, nor had she reached out to them about her bill at all. Healy added that other states that have brought forth similar legislation were Republican majorities and the legislators supporting the bills were Republicans.
Debate among the committee showed a hesitation to pass the bill on with Republican Joe Donnell saying that he felt that no physician should be alone with a minor.
After a motion to send the bill to the 41st day was presented by Republican Fred Deutsch, the committee voted to kill it with only three votes opposing the motion from Healy, Rehfeldt and Democrat Kameron Nelson.