Sunday, April 02, 2006

Big news in the South Dakota abortion debate

The state of South Dakota passed a draconian law earlier this year banning abortion except when the woman's life — not merely health — is in danger. The law is nothing more than a cynical effort to provoke a court challenge, although in that respect it is a misguided waste of state resources, even if you believe that abortion should be outlawed.

However, the law has also provided an opening for one of South Dakota's Native American tribes to step into the spotlight. Although the history of relations between the United States and the first nations that the U.S. displaced has been rocky at best, the Indian tribes are sovereign nations in many respects. That's why the Indians can have casinos and sell tax-free cigarettes. However, the Oglala Sioux tribe is floating the idea of building an abortion clinic on their reservation in South Dakota. The state attorney general has said that such a move would likely fall within the sovereign authority of the tribe.

It helps that the Oglala Sioux have a woman president for the first time in its history, and that she is a former nurse, but the confluence of women's issues and Indian issues is noteworthy in itself. Both women and Native Americans have been treated as "less than" by the dominant culture in America, and there is no reason for either group to sit there and take it.

To Oglala Sioux President Cecilia Fire Thunder I say,

Hecel lena oyate kin nipi kte.

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Tip o' the hat: Stephanie Desmon in the Baltimore Sun, 2006-04-01, picked up by the S.F. Chronicle