Everywhere we turn, we see symbols of renewal and rebirth. Spring snows blanket Custer State Park while buffalo calves are being born on the prairie. Elsewhere, the snow has turned to rain showers — a blessing to all, especially our farmers preparing the fields for spring planting.
This Easter weekend, regardless of the weather, churches across our great state will be filled with celebrations for Jesus’ resurrection. We celebrate his sacrifice for our sins so that one day we all may enjoy the promise of everlasting life. Unfortunately, the promise of life on Earth is not so simple.
The Founders of this great nation understood that God endowed us all with certain rights that cannot be taken or given away. Risking their own lives in defiance of King George, 56 patriots boldly declared the unalienable rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Thomas Jefferson, who wrote those words, also said “the care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government.”
And yet across this country, many hold up abortion as an essential right, ignoring the inherent right to life of those unborn children. Those voices, though present, don’t echo as loudly here. South Dakota is a Pro-Life state.
It’s one of the few issues where there have been unanimous, bipartisan victories in the legislature on this issue. In 2021, lawmakers banned selective abortions on the basis of a Down syndrome prenatal test. That was a heartwarming moment for me as governor and as a mother. That same year, I signed the Born-Alive Protection Act to ensure that every baby, regardless of the circumstances of their birth, receives the same life-saving treatment when they are brought into this world.
In the last four years, I have signed more than a dozen new laws protecting life in South Dakota. I was the first governor in the nation to appoint an Unborn Child Advocate in my office. Since then, we’ve defined abortion in statute, criminalized causing an abortion against a mother’s will, and strengthened reporting requirements. This year, we passed the strongest law in the country banning abortion via telemedicine. We’ve also continued the fight against abortion in federal court.
Last year, I was the lead signee on an important amicus brief in the Dobbs v Jackson case. In that brief, I joined 240 female scholars, professionals, and others in pushing back on the Roe v Wade narrative that women cannot be both mothers and successful career women. Meanwhile, South Dakota continues to protect its pro-life standing, and the lives of mothers and children, in the decade-long legal battle in the case known as Planned Parenthood v Noem.
South Dakota is closer than it has ever been to banning abortion — but the work doesn’t end there.
Since taking office, I have worked hard to support mothers and build stronger families. Two initiatives have seen great success in improving outcomes. This year, I was successful in funding the Bright Start program statewide so we can bring this life-changing program to more communities.
Bright Start helps pregnant mothers, their babies, and their fathers build a stronger family by offering training and services to teach young families how to raise their children in healthy homes and build a strong foundation for their futures.
Another way we are strengthening families is through our Stronger Families Together initiative. This program is making strong progress to reach its goal of enrolling 300 new foster families around the state. We are seeing tremendous success rates for reuniting families that were once in crisis. But there is always more work that can be done.
When we have finally secured the rights to life and liberty, all that is left is the pursuit of happiness. Springtime is a great reminder of how we can all get a fresh start on that pursuit — that includes helping others on their journey.
God bless you all and Happy Easter!