Bill providing prenatal care for illegal immigrants passes House

After a debate that pitted different conservative tenets against each other, South Dakota’s House of Representatives approved a proposal Friday providing prenatal care for illegal immigrants.

Republican supporters said the measure was “pro-life” and that it was worth providing important care for unborn children even if their parents happened to be illegal immigrants.

But other Republicans objected, saying the benefit to the infants was outweighed by concerns about encouraging illegal immigration and by the cost to taxpayers of providing that care.

An analysis by the Legislative Research Council predicted providing that care would cost $240,000 to the state, plus $285,000 in federal money. Advocates said that cost was probably inflated and would be counteracted by cost savings, while skeptics said the cost would probably be far more.

Most Democrats voted yes, along with 25 Republicans. Opposed were 27 Republicans and one Democrat. The measure passed 39-28 and heads to the House.

Before the final vote the fight was over proposed amendments to the bill. Two proposals passed, requiring reports on the cost of the bill and clarifying that “prenatal care” did not include non-medically necessary abortions.

Two more were offered by opponents. Rep. Lance Russell, R-Hot Springs, tried to make the measure a one-year target program and appropriate money to fund it — which would have made the bill require a two-thirds majority it didn’t ultimately reach.

Another, from Rep. Betty Olson, R-Prairie City, would have required the state to report the names and addresses of any illegal immigrants receiving care under the measure.

Both were defeated.

The bill, House Bill 1214, was considered two days after the normal deadline for House bills to pass out of the House. It got an extension because on the Wednesday deadline opponents requested an analysis of the bill’s costs.

It now heads to the Senate.