Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, a Republican, has warned many Native American tribes in the state that if they allow abortion on sovereign lands, he will intervene.
“The people of Oklahom won’t think too much of it if the tribes try to set up abortion clinics,” Stitt said on Fox News on Sunday.
“You know, the tribes in Oklahoma are super liberal,” he said. “They’re going to Washington, D.C. They’re talking to the president [Joe] Biden at the White House; they kind of adopt those strategies. So yes, we think it’s possible that some tribes are trying to implement abortion on demand. They think you can be 1/1000th member of the tribe and not have to follow state law. And so that’s something we’re watching.”
The tribes are not liberal. In fact, some, especially in eastern Oklahoma, are working with Republican Rep. Tom Cole (OK) on issues.
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Native American tribes are allowed to govern themselves on their own land. Their sovereignty is the reason they can have things like casinos in states where it’s banned. Formerly known as Indian Territory, the state has more than 40 tribes on its borders.
It was only last month that Oklahoma politicians clashed with tribes in a persistent refusal to cooperate with the Supreme Court’s ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma.
“In McGirt, the Supreme Court held that much of eastern Oklahoma is Indian Country under an 1833 treaty between the U.S. government and the Muscogee Creek Nation,” explained Professor Kirsten Matoy Carlson of Wayne State University. “Based on this treaty and an 1885 federal statute, the ruling effectively means that the state of Oklahoma cannot prosecute crimes committed by or against Native Americans there. Federal and tribal officials are the only ones who can prosecute these cases.”
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The Oklahoma state government has asked the Supreme Court to rehear the case more than 40 times. According to existing Supreme Court decisions, approximately 43% of Oklahoma is governed by tribal lands. This ultimately means that the GOP governor has no control over the entire state when it comes to its laws.
There has been a conversation among activists looking for loopholes in anticipation of Roe v. Wade’s overturning that putting clinics under tribal land might be possible. Such a decision, however, would require the involvement of tribal councils. Sources involved with the tribal government of an Oklahoma tribe told Raw Story that many aren’t likely to rock the boat.
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If Stitt and others in the Oklahoma legislature try to restrict tribes on the pretext that they are trying to stop abortions, they could find themselves in a massive legal battle over the right of native tribes to govern themselves.
Stitt is re-elected in November.