EDITORIAL: Lawyers, tribes have no idea using reservations for abortion clinics



Shortly before the Supreme Court effectively reversed Roe v. Wade in its June 24 Dobbs decision, 25 Senate Democrats signed a letter to President Biden urging him “to use federal property and resources to increase the access to abortion”.

The letter does not specifically refer to the idea of ​​using Native American reservations as safe havens for abortion clinics, but Republican Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, who is from the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, did told Fox News last month that he thought there was a possibility that Native tribes may attempt to do so.

“You know, the tribes of Oklahoma are super liberal,” Stitt said in an appearance shortly after the draft notice quashing Roe v. Wade. “They’re going to Washington, D.C. They’re talking to President Biden at the White House. They kind of embrace those strategies.

The idea then went viral on social media and in the press after the letter’s first signer, Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, along with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, openly called on the Biden administration to open up land and federal resources to ensure reproductive health. services.

However, many jurists are already wondering why such a decision would be illegal and incompatible with the values ​​of tribal nations.

First and foremost, Native American health clinics operating on federal Indian lands could not perform abortions except in very unusual situations due to the Hyde Amendment of 1976, which prohibited public funds for such services.

Stacy Leeds, a member of the Cherokee Nation tribe and a professor at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, told Voice of America, “Whenever there’s a call for tribes to do something something that doesn’t come from their own thought processes, it just stinks of further colonization. You know, the outsider trying to tell a local tribal government what their law and policy should be.

ASU law professor Robert Miller, who is also an expert on Native American law, told The Arizona Republic that the law is not the only consideration, as many tribes dispute the idea of ​​abortion. .

“The first question would be, is it even practical? Is there a tribal government that would like to take it on? Mr. Miller told the Republic. “The history of certain tribal nations is that they were heavily proselytized by the Christian religion. In the 1870s, the Grant administration put the churches in charge of the reservations. There are reservations that are known as such and such a denomination. There is a possible political and/or religious objection to the tribes doing even this.

Ms Leeds confirmed Mr Miller’s comments, saying a number of tribes have ‘really conservative ideas’ of both Christian faith and their native spiritual beliefs.

This can be demonstrated by the fact that in 2010, when the Supreme Court of the Navajo Nation ruled on a case involving the death of an unborn fetus, it said, “The child is…alive at home. conception and develops perfectly under the care of the mother. . The umbilical cord… is the lifeline between mother and unborn child. The mother, and now the surviving grandmother and aunts, have the maternal role, which is to bear, raise and teach a child.

“We automatically find that the child, even the unborn, occupies a space in Navajo culture that can be described as holy or sacred, although neither of these words accurately conveys the status of the child,” wrote the ruling jurists.

Finally, the United States Supreme Court also recently ruled that states can prosecute non-Native Americans on tribal land for non-tribal crimes on tribal land, opening the door to criminal prosecution of non-Native American doctors providing health services on reserves.

Senior Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma said in a statement to Native News Online that he described the move as an attack on Indian Country.

“Cherokee citizens have a range of opinions on this subject,” he said. “Now is not the time for politicians or election candidates to use the issue to demonize tribes and drive a wedge between citizens in order to attack tribal sovereignty.”

We couldn’t agree more.


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