Addicted mothers face resource gap under South Dakota’s abortion ban

With access to abortion decimated in South Dakota, there are still questions about where pregnant mothers can seek help and whether that help will be enough to support women who are struggling to raise their children.

But for Sioux Falls’ needy people, especially those who are also experiencing substance abuse problems, abortion was rarely an option to begin with when it was still legal in South Dakota, say local family support and nonprofit leaders.

A majority of mothers who come to Union Gospel Mission’s homeless shelter in Sioux Falls want to keep their babies, and often see this as a way to motivate sobriety, said shelter director Eric Weber.

Some are successful, some fall through the mat. Other times, having a child can put mothers even deeper below the poverty line.

Since the Supreme Court of the United States Roe v. Wade overthrew, which eventually made abortion illegal from June 24 in South Dakota, Governor Kristi Noem said women would remain protected and supported by their pregnancies and births in the state. But that leaves questions about exactly how it could unfold while the state works through ongoing health care, labor, and child care shortages.

More: Abortion is now illegal in South Dakota. Here’s what you need to know.

“Every abortion has always had two victims: the unborn child and the mother. “Today’s decision will save unborn lives in South Dakota, but there is more work to be done,” said Noem, the same day Roe was overthrown. “We must do what we can to help mothers in crisis know that there are options and resources available to them. Together we will ensure that abortion is not only illegal in South Dakota – it is unthinkable. ”

Noem has promised to hold a special session on abortion, but in the weeks since the Supreme Court’s ruling and from Friday thereafter, according to previous Argus Leader reports, there is still no indication of when that session will take place, if at all. This vow was initially made by Noem in May when a draft of the decision was first leaked to the media by the court.

More: Analysis: Does Governor Kristi Call Back from the Vow to Hold Special Session on Abortion?

And as of the end of June, South Dakota as a whole has a $ 636 million affordability gap for child care, according to a study conducted by Sioux Falls Childcare Collaborative.

“What is missing are aftercare resources,” Weber said. “Once we get housing for them (mothers), what happens next?”

Although the shelter’s case managers do their best to help mothers with an addiction history and keep children with their families at the shelter, Weber says there is still a gap to help pregnant mothers get the counseling, education and support system what they need to keep them out of the cycle of poverty.

More: Planned Parenthood stops abortion services in South Dakota ahead of Supreme Court action against Dobbs

That gap is an obstacle places like officials with Volunteers of America, Dakotas trying to remove to “help women get the services they need to become healthier individuals for themselves and their children,” says Becky Deelstra, the group’s managing director of marketing and business, in the weeks before the Supreme Court ruling.

Childcare is a ‘major obstacle’ for those struggling with addiction, says VOA spokesperson

The mentality of pregnant women who are homeless is often: “I want to keep my baby and become a better mother” or “It’s going to love me like no one has had it before,” Weber said.

Its homeless shelter serves as many as 125 guests on any given night, according to the shelter’s website. The shelter’s women’s center, which houses mothers and their families, provides case management to help women through miscarriages, pregnancies, surveillance fights, drug abuse treatment, frequent referrals to treatment programs, housing services and more. The shelter also offers parenting classes for expectant mothers.

“I think abortions are really for people with money,” he said.

More: We analyzed five years of South Dakota abortion data. Here’s what we found.

Other programs, such as VOA’s Next Start specialty program, aim parenting of women with 30-, 60- and 90-day addiction treatment, depending on the person’s circumstances.

Next Start lives in one of two residential treatment centers in South Dakota that offers long-term treatment for mothers, allowing them to bring their children as well.

It could range from an expectant mother, a mother with children or a mother going through custody issues, Deelstra said.

“What we want to do is really make sure they have enough time to have confidence in their health and recovery,” Deelstra said of the women who usually spend several months in VOA’s treatment program.

More: Ellis: Why South Dakota Voters Could Relive 2006, 2008 Abortion Fighting

The treatment is divided between high-intensity and low-intensity programming. Long-term treatment is a way to make sure a pregnancy is as healthy as it can be, she explained, to avoid risks of birth defects and lifelong problems with the child.

Education via VOA’s specialty program also follows a holistic approach with counseling to both the patient and their family, covering parenting classes to the development of a healthy family unit.

“We really try to include individuals in the treatment who do not seek it themselves,” Deelstra said. “It’s often not just about the woman in treatment, but the extended family as well.”

VOA takes neutral position on abortion ban

As one of two centers in the state that take pregnant women with an addiction history, and their children, finding childcare is a major obstacle for mothers seeking addiction treatment, according to Deelstra.

“They do not want to leave their child with someone else for 30, 60, 90 days,” she said. “Sometimes they do not have someone with whom they can leave their child.”

More: Sens. Mike Rounds, John Thune says states should dictate abortion law, not Congress

Deelstra says VOA takes a neutral stance on abortion, and is there to help people improve their health.

“What this means for people is an individual decision, their circumstances and what is best for their situation, so we do not get involved in any kind of position on it,” Deelstra said.

Email human rights reporter Nicole Ki at or follow on Twitter at @_nicoleki.

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