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South Dakota Abortion Ban

The scope of tribal sovereignty is under fire in South Dakota, where abortion rights are under attack. This abortion ban, excepting cases where an abortion is necessary to save the mother's life, will take place in South Dakota on July 1, 2006. The South Dakota law strictly limits abortions only to cases of potential maternal fatality, thus ignoring pregnancies caused by sexual assault or incest.

This controversial law was boldly confronted by the President of South Dakota's Oglala Sioux Tribe, Cecilia Fire Thunder. President Fire Thunder declared that the Pine Ridge Reservation would foster a clinic for performing abortions under the status of tribal sovereignty. While other doctors would be sentenced to a five year prison term and a penalty fine of five thousand dollars, under President Fire Thunder's proposal, the Pine Ridge clinic could perform abortions outside of state jurisdiction. If House Bill 1215 passes, the clinic will begin to perform abortions, offer birth control to patients, and provide family and reproductive education.

South Dakota, a predominantly Republican state, has been pushing anti-abortion legislation for the past few years. In 2004, legislation to completely stop abortions failed by a single vote. While legislation to restrict abortions was voted into existence during 2005, the abortion ban for July 1, 2006 is the law with the greatest political authority at this point. South Dakota Attorney General Larry Long has verbally acknowledged that the sovereign status of Pine Ridge Reservation provides a loophole for abortions to be performed, so long as either the practitioner or the patient is a Native American.

Indeed, this pro-life legislation in South Dakota marks the first movement of its kind since Roe v. Wade. In 1973, the United States Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade deemed anti-abortion legislation a violation of a person's constitutional right to privacy. As such, all state laws against abortion were negated. Thus, the response to the new South Dakota abortion ban will pave the way for future legislation on abortion. Supporters of the abortion ban anticipate an eventual Supreme Court response that would overturn the precedent of Roe v. Wade.

President Fire Thunder's response is particularly pertinent since Native American women in South Dakota may well be the group that is most impacted by the abortion ban, according to Indian Country Today. Native American communities are reported to have higher statistics of sexual assault than other communities, thus pushing Native women into the forefront of a group that pro-choice supporters deem

For more information on South Dakota legislation visit: http://legis.state.sd.us/index.aspx

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