Members of South Dakota Indian Tribe to Protest Abortion Facility Proposal

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 24, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Members of South Dakota Indian Tribe to Protest Abortion Facility Proposal Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 24, 2006

Pine Ridge, SD ( — Members of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation are meeting today to organize a protest against Sioux Tribe President Cecelia Fire Thunder’s proposal to build an abortion facility on the reservation. Indian elders, youth and community members are slated to take part in organizing the protest.

Lily Mae Red Eagle, an 85 year-old woman who lives in Kyle, said the members of the tribe will meet this afternoon at the powwow grounds and will plan a march for the end of the month.

Fire Thunder proposed the abortion business after the South Dakota legislature approved a ban on virtually all abortions. Governor Mike Rounds signed it into law, but pro-abortion groups are hoping to put it on the November ballot and get state residents to overturn it.

Red Eagle told the Rapid City Journal the planned march would be peaceful and that those involved in the protest will also attend an Ogala Sioux Tribe Council meeting to discuss the issue with members of the council.

"We’re not going to attack anyone, but we will listen to what council has to say about this," Red Eagle said.

A grandmother of nine children, she told the Journal newspaper that she didn’t think the Indian tribe should be promoting abortion because it conflicts with the tribe’s respect for life.

"I don’t believe in killing babies, no matter what the circumstances," she told the newspaper.

Robert Benson of Pine Ridge agreed and said "We’ve never believed in killing our own." "It’s dividing a nation of people," he added.

Former Pine Ridge council representative Eileen Janis told the Journal she plans to join the protest and worries the Indian reservation is exposing itself to unnecessary controversy because of the proposal.

"[I]t makes me feel bad that we would consider having something like this on our land," Janis said.

Fire Thunder proposed the abortion business because she said it would get around the state law because only federal abortion law applies to the reservation. However, a former tribal judge says it would violate tribal law that respects the life of unborn children.

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

"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.

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.

Clementine Little Hawk Hernandez, the founder of Indians for Life, 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 –