Monday, March 13, 2006

The Love Ends When You're Born in South Dakota

After South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds signed legislation last week banning nearly all abortions in his state, he made a big culture-of-life statement about how he and the rest of the Religious Right were protecting the weakest among them.

"In the history of the world, the true test of a civilization is how well people treat the most vulnerable and most helpless in their society," said Rounds.

That’s an amazing statement coming from the governor of the state that houses the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, which has long been one of the bleakest places in North America from a socio-economic point of view.

According to U.S. Census Bureau poverty status numbers, Shannon County, which encompasses most of Pine Ridge, has a startling 60 percent of families with kids between the ages of 5 and 17 living below the federal poverty line. In households defined as “female householder, no husband present,” the number of children under five living in poverty is a sickening 68 percent.

This must be what the South Dakota governor was speaking of when he waxed poetic about how a civilized people treats its “most vulnerable and most helpless.”

Due to the lack of sufficient health care, life expectancy on the reservation is 47 for men and 56 for women – numbers that would make us shake our heads at the misfortune of some isolated, third-world nation. That area of South Dakota also has an infant mortality rate that is twice the national average, with some child-welfare sources saying it's up to five times what's seen in the rest of the country.

Unemployment is consistently over 80 percent, adolescent suicide is four times the U.S. average and many families have no electricity or telephone.

Finally, for a state whose leader implies that they are the epitome of a civilized society, you have to wonder why so many of their counties rank among the 10 poorest in the entire country.

Yes, you read that correctly: Half of the 10 poorest counties in America are in South Dakota.

And thus the people who are anti-choice, but typically do the least to support families and help young children once they’re actually born, continue to live their real creed: Love the fetus, hate the child.