Tribes Show Little Interest in Offering Abortions on Reservations Despite Speculation They Could

by | Jun 23, 2022 | Health

Rachael Lorenzo started hearing the questions several weeks ago from strangers on Twitter and reporters seeking interviews: Since Native American tribes are sovereign nations, with their own laws, could they offer abortion services on Native land within states that may soon outlaw abortion?

And would they?

The speculation began last month, after a leaked draft of a U.S. Supreme Court opinion suggested the court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that guaranteed the right to an abortion nationwide.

Lorenzo and other Indigenous abortion rights advocates say the questions have mostly come from non-Native people.

The advocates said they hadn’t heard of any tribe or Indigenous organization advocating for opening clinics on tribal land to offer abortion services. Planned Parenthood, the nation’s leading provider of abortions, told KHN that it is not exploring this option and that such decisions should be left to Indigenous people.

Any such plan would be fraught with legal, financial, and political hurdles, the advocates said. And they wondered why many people now asking about opening clinics on reservations didn’t seem interested in health care access there before abortion rights were threatened nationwide.

“All of a sudden, this issue that’s going to impact white women too — or impact white women more broadly — now we’re being seen as the potential savior,” Lorenzo said. “It should not be on triba …

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