S.D. House Advances Bill on Prenatal Care for Undocumented Immigrants

February 12, 2014 — The South Dakota House on Monday passed a bill (HB 1158) that would allow the state to offer prenatal care to low-income, undocumented immigrants, the AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

The House voted 46-22 to pass the bill, which now heads to the Senate (AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2/10).

Broad Support

The bill has support from hospitals and groups on both sides of the abortion-rights debate.

Several disabling and costly medical conditions are preventable if identified during prenatal checkups, according to physicians' testimony before a House committee last week, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reports.

The bill's proponents made both fiscal and moral arguments to support it.

Children born to low-income undocumented immigrants are U.S. citizens and thus eligible for Medicaid. According to state Rep. Scott Ecklund (R), one premature birth could cost Medicaid more than $1 million, which would exceed the cost of providing prenatal care for the approximately 200 pregnant undocumented immigrants in South Dakota annually.

Ecklund said the measure is "clearly a pro-life bill" and "NOT an immigration reform bill."

Opponents of the bill said that undocumented immigrants should not receive state benefits and that the bill would encourage more undocumented immigrants to come to South Dakota.

'Personhood,' Hospital Reporting Amendments Defeated

The House rejected two amendments from opponents of the bill.

One amendment would have required hospitals to report suspected undocumented immigrants to authorities. The other amendment would have added a declaration about fetal "personhood" to the bill (Montgomery, Sioux Falls Argus Leader, 2/10).