SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Just because abortion is now illegal in South Dakota that doesn’t mean the work is stopping for South Dakota Right to Life who wants to make abortion ‘unthinkable.’

“For 51 years, South Dakota Right to Life has dedicated itself to helping women navigate unplanned pregnancies… And we’ll continue to do so moving forward,” Executive Director Dale Bartscher said.

While the organization dedicated time and resources to advocating for anti-abortion legislation in Pierre, its mission extended beyond policy. Bartscher said that with the fall of Roe, their mission to help people navigate unplanned pregnancies will look much the same.

That includes supporting nine pregnancy centers across the state.

“These are designed to provide free services for women where and when they need it, such as free ultrasounds, pregnancy tests, prenatal vitamins, baby clothing, formula, parenting classes, and additional practical help,” Bartscher said. “These centers and our tens of thousands of volunteers will continue looking for more ways to help mothers in need.” 

In 2021, 192 women in South Dakota had an abortion. An additional 153 traveled to Minnesota and 77 went to Nebraska for abortion care. The main reasons for terminating the pregnancy were that the pregnant women did not want the child and/or felt they could not afford the child.

According to Feeding South Dakota, one in six children are at risk of going hungry with one in nine individuals across the state being food insecure.

South Dakota is also one of many states that does not guarantee paid family leave after birth. It’s something that Governor Kristi Noem recently said she is in favor of having conversations on.

Bartscher said that in order to prevent people from leaving the state for abortions, the organization hopes to show that South Dakota is a place where families can find resources.

“…To the point where they will want to stay in the state of South Dakota, give birth to their children, and know that the resources are there to assist them in the process. And whatever decision they make, following the child’s birth, whether that means adoption, or to keep that child and to know that we’re there to stand with them,” Bartscher said.

Foster care and adoption have been a priority of Governor Noem through the Stronger Families Together initiative. According to the Department of Social Services (DSS), between May 2021 and May 2022, 304 new families became licensed foster families in South Dakota. DSS partners with South Dakota Kids Belong for this initiative and hopes to recruit 1,200 families by June of 2025.

KELOLAND News has reached out to the Department of Social Services to see how many children are in foster care or eligible for adoption. A spokesperson with DSS says they are working to get the information for us.

South Dakota Right to Life is a strong supporter of Noem’s policies and stance on abortion.

“We stand with our governor and the governor has stated clearly and stated several times that South Dakota is the most pro-life state in the country. And one of the reasons that is the most pro-life state is because of our trigger law passed in 2005,” Bartscher said. “So, we’re grateful for our pro-life governor, lieutenant governor, and many of our 105 legislators who support the issue of the sanctity of human life.”

When asked if that support extended to the governor’s stance on not adding an exception to the current law for cases of rape/incest Bartscher said, “We simply stand with the governor’s opinion on that.”

Governor Noem appeared on CNN last week where the host asked her about the case of a 10-year-old in Ohio who was pregnant as a result of a rape. The child had to travel to Indiana to have an abortion.

Noem called the case a tragedy and said it was not something she could ever imagine but added that as the law stands, the only exceptions are to save the life of the pregnant mother.

“I don’t believe a tragic situation should be perpetuated by another tragedy, and so there’s more that we’ve got to do to make sure that we are really living a life that says every life is precious,” Noem said.

KELOLAND News asked Bartscher what South Dakota Right to Life would do to provide support if a situation like that happened here in South Dakota.

“No comment on that. That situation is ongoing. And so, until the facts around that– So, no comment,” Bartscher said.

Right now, Bartscher said the organization’s legislative committee is meeting to discuss the next steps.

“The legislative committee is meeting to discuss what legislation we may advocate for during this next legislative session, legislation that will assist those with unplanned pregnancies in a variety of ways,” Bartscher said.

As they continue to do the work that has been their mission for over 50 years, Bartscher said they feel as if they are winning the hearts and minds of people in their fight against abortion.

“As of today, abortion has not been made unthinkable in our culture. So, our work is still cut out for us,” Bartscher said. “Yes, I’d say the pro-life movement is at work, rich with resources.”