Rachel Lorenzo began hearing questions several weeks ago from strangers on Twitter and reporters seeking interviews: Since Native American tribes are sovereign states, and have their own laws, could they provide abortion services on Native lands within states that might soon ban abortion?
And are they?
Speculation began last month, after a leaked draft of a US Supreme Court opinion indicated the court was about to overturn Raw vs. Wade1973 Resolution guaranteeing the right to abortion nationwide.
Lorenzo and other Indigenous abortion rights advocates say the questions have mostly come from non-Indigenous people.
Defenders said they had not heard of any tribe or indigenous organization advocating the opening of clinics in tribal lands to provide abortion services. Planned Parenthood, the country’s leading provider of abortions, told KHN that it is not exploring this option and that such decisions should be left to Indigenous people.
Advocates said any such plan would be fraught with legal, financial and political obstacles. They wondered why many of the people now asking about opening clinics on hold did not seem interested in getting health care there before abortion rights were threatened nationwide.
“Suddenly, this issue is going to affect white women as well – or affect white women more broadly – now we’re seen as a potential savior,” Lorenzo said. “Tribal states should not have to go any further when many tribal states already have very limited resources.”
Lorenzo – from Mescalero Apache, Laguna Pueblo, and Xicana Legacy -Director of the Aboriginal Women’s Group, a Albuquerque-based nonprofit that helps Aboriginal people in the United States and Canada afford abortions.
Lauren Van Shilfgaard, director of the legal clinic at UCLA Law School and a member of the Cochiti Pueblo, said people are looking for ways to ensure access to abortion if Raw vs. Wade Falls but the solution to the reservation is problematic. “I think people throw spaghetti on the wall and then suddenly remember, ‘Oh, yeah, tribal lordship.'”
“It’s a strange argument to say, ‘Oh, can the tribes help?’ Like, no, the tribes are already in a worse situation than you are.
some tribes lacks running water and finance, many aborigines – Once targeted by non-sensory sterilization operations They still do not have access to high-quality health care.
Oklahoma is among the states that make national headlines Passing abortion restrictions. Its governor, Republican Kevin Stitt, is also fighting back 2020 US Supreme Court decision That expanded the tribal state in the state. State said during an appearance on Fox News in May He thinks tribes might try to offer “abortion on demand. They think you can be 1/1,000 of a tribe and you don’t have to follow state law. And that’s something we’re watching.”
State spokeswoman Carly Atchison told KHN that the Oklahoma attorney general’s office advised the governor that tribes might be able to offer abortions on their lands. She said she did not see any clear statement from the tribes about whether they would try.
Spokespersons from Oklahoma’s five largest tribes did not respond when KHN asked whether any tribal members or elected representatives had suggested abortions.
But Chuck Hoskin Jr., president of Cherokee Nation, reacted to Stitt’s comment. “Speculating what tribes should do based on a leaked US Supreme Court draft decision is irresponsible,” he said. Hoskin wrote in a statement issued to the media. “And the governor of Oklahoma and his disguised media campaign, which is really meant to attack the tribes and our sovereignty,” is irresponsible.
Lorenzo and other Indigenous advocates said that many non-Indigenous people now discussing the possibility of using protected lands for abortions, have remained silent on relevant issues affecting Native Americans.
Many of the indigenous people who live in the reserves have Lacking access to abortion Lorenzo said the services have been since 1976, when the so-called Hyde Amendment came into effect. Through the Hyde Amendment, Congress prohibited federal funds from being used to pay for most abortions. This means that the federally funded Indian Health Service – the main healthcare provider in many reservations – can provide abortions only in limited circumstances.
Even if the tribes wanted to allow abortion services on their lands, The legality of doing so would be ambiguousVan Shelfgaard said. Criminal cases on Native American reservations are handled by tribal, state, or federal courts, depending on the situation.
Van Schelfgaard said that non-indigenous persons accused of crimes against other non-indigenous persons within protected boundaries are usually subject to jurisdiction. So if the state bans abortion, prosecutors may be able to charge a non-Indigenous doctor who performed abortions in custody.
Legal questions can get more complicated with it A new type of abortion restrictions, first seen in TexasVan Shelfgaard said. She expects to see more of those laws, enforced in civil courts, rather than criminal courts. Van Schelfgaard said that determining whether tribal, state or federal courts have jurisdiction in civil cases is more difficult than in criminal cases.
Legal issues will not be the only obstacles to providing abortion services in tribal lands. Tribal councils are unlikely to approve such clinics, said Sharon Assetwire, executive director of the Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center at the Yankton Sioux Preserve in South Dakota.
Assetware said many tribal leaders’ views of abortion are shaped by religion. “Churches have a lot of control,” she said. “Politically, I think it would be very difficult to see one of our leaders standing up for women’s rights. I don’t really think that’s going to happen.”
Other challenges could include funding and staffing these clinics, providing security for staff and patients, bypassing any licensing barriers, and paying attorneys’ fees to defend against anticipated lawsuits.
Asetoyer also noted that some clinics, such as those in South Dakota, have had to transfer doctors from other states to perform abortions. Will these doctors be willing to travel for reservations, some of which are a few hours’ drive from the nearest airport?
Although current talk about potential abortion services on Native lands is mostly brought up by non-Native people, Native Americans have their own history of abortion and advocacy of reproductive rights.
In 2006 on the Pine Ridge Preserve in South Dakota, Cecilia Fire Thunder attempted to open a clinic that was going to provide health care services to women, including abortion. Clinic plan uploaded After the tribal council overthrew Oglala Sioux Fire Thunder, The first female chief of the tribe.
This article was reprinted from khn.org Courtesy of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.