Indian Abortion Business May Not Avoid Abortion Ban, South Dakota AG Says

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 27, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Indian Abortion Business May Not Avoid Abortion Ban, South Dakota AG Says Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 27, 2006

Pierre, SD ( — A proposal by the president of the Oglala Sioux Indian tribe to build a Planned Parenthood abortion business on tribal lands to avoid complying with a new state abortion ban may not work out after all. South Dakota Attorney General Larry Long says claims that it wouldn’t be subjected to the abortion ban are not totally accurate.

Cecilia Fire Thunder said last week that she would propose the abortion center if a new state law is upheld that would ban all abortions except those to save the life of the mother.

In interviews last week, she condemned the abortion ban and said an abortion facility in tribal lands would be able to avoid complying with the law.

But Long told the Rapid City Weekly news that most of the abortions performed there would be illegal because, on tribal lands, there are typically three categories of crimes.

Crimes involving only tribal members are subject to the authority of federal or tribal courts and if one of the people involved is not a tribal member, the U.S. attorney’s office would have jurisdiction.

But Long told the newspaper that any crime involving people who are not tribal members is still a state crime.

Therefore, if the law is upheld and the abortion practitioner at the tribal abortion business is not a Native American, the state law applies and the abortion practitioner would be fined and jailed for performing the abortion.

Essentially, Long explained, only abortions performed by a Native American abortion practitioner would have a chance of staying legal if the abortion ban is upheld in court.

That’s also the determination of Rapid City attorney Charlie Abourezk, who told the Rapid City Journal newspaper that only Indian abortion practitioners would be immune from the state abortion ban. He said that would apply whether the woman having the abortion was an Indian woman or not.

University of South Dakota law professor Frank Pommersheim agreed and told the newspaper that the abortion facility would only be legal if the abortion practitioner was a Native American and the abortion center was located on tribal lands.

Fire Thunder said she may donate land for an abortion business if the ban is upheld and told the Rapid City newspaper that she has attorneys looking into setting it up.

Currently only one abortion business operates in South Dakota — a Planned Parenthood center in Sioux Falls, which is not located on tribal lands.

Fire Thunder is one of fifteen state leaders to sign onto the pro-abortion petition drive seeking to put the abortion ban on the November ballot.

If South Dakota voters uphold the ban, Planned Parenthood can still file a lawsuit seeking to overturn it. If voters reject the ban, it would not become law and state lawmakers would have to pass another one.