Indigenous tribes push back on calls to open abortion clinics on federal land

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Representatives of some Native American tribes tell Axios that they have no intention of setting up abortion clinics on their land and that they would take offense to any non-Native Americans, including progressives, in their saying what to do.

The big picture: The Biden administration has made it clear that it has no intention of pursuing such initiatives, telling progressives who have leaned on them to set up abortion clinics on federal land in red states that they underestimate the legal risks and other complications.

  • Vice President Kamala Harris told CNN, “That’s not, right now, what we’re discussing.” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters there were “dangerous ramifications” to providing abortions on federal land.
  • But tribal leaders and legal experts are also speaking out to make sure their position is clear.

What they say : “It’s a stretch for people to assume or assume that a tribe would want to do this in the first place,” said Stacy Leeds, a law and leadership professor at Arizona State University Law, who previously served as a judge in the Supreme Court of the Cherokee Nation. said Axios.

  • “We have a historic arc of oppression that has really undermined the tribal ability to respond,” Lauren van Schilfgaarde, director of the UCLA Law School Tribal Legal Development Clinic and Cochiti Pueblo fellow, told Axios. . “And so the idea of ​​tribes having a magic balm, it’s just frustrating.”
  • Even if tribes wanted to set up private abortion clinics, Leeds noted, “it wouldn’t take federal money because it would be limited by the Hyde Amendment. And it should only involve tribal citizens.”

It’s also unfair for non-natives to make refugee claims given America’s exploitative history, van Schilfgaarde said.

  • Senior Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma said in a statement to Native News Online that “Cherokee citizens have a range of opinions on this subject. This is not the time for politicians or election candidates to use the issue to demonize Tribes and drive a wedge between citizens…”

Driving the news: Following the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, U.S. Representative Alexandra Ocasio Cortez (DN.Y.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) have called on the Biden administration to consider building abortion facilities on federal lands in red states.

  • Warren, Murray (D-Wash.) and 23 other Senate Democrats also signed a letter asking Biden to take executive action.

State of play: Indian Health Service (IHS) clinics – where most natives go for medical care – are prohibited from performing abortions except in certain circumstances due to the Hyde Amendment, which was passed in 1976 and prevents public funds for abortion.

  • Clinics are grossly underfunded and reproductive health care is “really underserved” in Indigenous communities, van Schilfgaarde said, citing disproportionately high infant and maternal mortality rates among Indigenous people.

Between the lines: Establishing abortion clinics on National Park Service or Bureau of Land Management land would also face a litany of legal and logistical challenges, with battles over water rights and where clinics can operate in areas where there are endangered species.

To note: The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that states can prosecute non-Natives who commit crimes against Native Americans on tribal lands. Thus, a non-Indigenous provider performing an abortion for an Indigenous person on tribal land could be penalized.

  • And Public Law 280 extends state criminal law to Indigenous lands in Alaska, California, Minnesota and Wisconsin, among other states.

Go further: Indigenous women fear for their safety in a post-Roe America

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