South Dakota Indian Abortion Business May Violate Pro-Life Tribal Law

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

South Dakota Indian Abortion Business May Violate Pro-Life Tribal Law Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 9, 2006

Pine Ridge, SD ( — A planned abortion business on an Indian reservation in South Dakota may be able to get around a state ban on abortions, but a former tribal judge says it would violate tribal law that respects the life of unborn children. Meanwhile, the tribal president behind the effort may be the subject of an impeachment attempt.

Oglala Sioux Tribal President Cecelia Fire Thunder has proposed the abortion facility in response to the abortion ban, but a retired tribal chief judge says tribal law would prevent it from being built.

Patrick Lee, a retired chief judge for the Oglala Sioux Tribe who now teaches tribal law at Oglala Lakota College, wrote an op-ed over the weekend to the Rapid City Journal.

"Life is sacred – the winged, two-legged, four-legged. You hear constant references to respect for life," Lee said. "Its the tribal law."

Lee told the Journal that Fire Thunder could press to change tribal law to allow for the abortion business but he indicated that the Native American tradition of respecting life would make it extraordinarily difficult.

"She could ask the tribe to change the law. And that would be an uphill battle," Lee explained.

Lee pointed to a specific portion of tribal law code about juveniles that indicates the right to life of babies before birth is respected.

The code says, "a child conceived, but not born, is to be deemed an existing person so far as may be necessary for its interests and welfare to be protected in the event of its subsequent birth."

Lee told the Rapid City newspaper that he used that section of law as a judge to require pregnant women abusing illegal drugs to get counseling or be charged with child abuse because of the injuries to the baby.

Meanwhile, Fire Thunder, who has been the subject to two unrelated attempts at impeaching her, may be the subject of a third try to remove her from office.

Kathy Janis, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council, told the Journal that she spoke with another tribal member who is organizing an impeachment effort against Fire Thunder.

“He did file an impeachment complaint. I did verify it,” Janis said by telephone Friday night. “He was at the tribal building. He is bringing it to the council.”

Fire Thunder is a longtime abortion advocate and formerly worked at an abortion business in California. She’s on the steering committee of the pro-abortion group hoping to defeat the ban at the polls.

She originally planned to build the abortion business only if the attempt to defeat the ban failed. She told Indian Country Today that it will move ahead regardless.

She already has a name, too — the Sacred Choices Clinic.

Planning for the abortion facility is already underway and she has put together volunteers to coordinate strategy, attorneys are drafting papers and looking at potential legal obstacles, Thunder explained.

Thunder has already raised $5,000 from pro-abortion activists across the country wanted to see the Indian abortion center succeed. She indicated she’s received hundreds of emails in support.

But the venture may ultimately fail if it violates tribal law.

Clementine Little Hawk Hernandez, the founder of Indians for Life, disagrees and says Native Americans historically favor pro-life values.

"Our native people have such a rich tradition which is at its heart the love and respect for all life," Hernandez said. "It’s truly amazing how pro-life our Native People are."

"As Native Americans, we must stand up and witness that all life is a sacred gift from God," she added.

Hernandez is a Lakota Sioux who was born on the South Dakota reservation and is an active member in the Tekawitha Conference. Her group is an outreach of the National Right to Life Committee.

TAKE ACTION: Voice your opposition to: Oglala Sioux Tribe, ATTN: President Fire Thunder, P. O. Box H, Pine Ridge, SD 57770. You can also call 605-867-6074 or fax a letter to 605-867-6076.

Related web sites:
Oglala Sioux Tribe –