The Supreme Court of the United States decided there is no federal constitutional right to abortion care for women and people who birth in a 6-3 decision of Roe v. Wade on June 24.
Access to abortion has already been difficult for Indigenous women and people who birth, due to the Hyde Amendment that banned the use of federal money for abortion care.
Many Indigenous people rely on Indian Health Services for their care and the Hyde Amendment deeply impacted Indigenous communities' access to abortion, forcing Indigenous people to drive hundreds of miles to access the care they needed.
“We will never, ever stop having abortions. We will always be in control of our bodies. We will never succumb to a fascist, white supremacist government, no matter the cost. We will continue to help our communities access the care they need,” said Indigenous Women Rising, one of the only Indigenous abortion funds in the country.
“As the keepers and stewards of this land, and as citizens and descendants of our tribal nations, we state very clearly, these systems were never built to protect our peoples. From forced sterilization of our women and relatives capable of becoming pregnant to the implementation of the Hyde Amendment, this is yet another attack on the sovereignty of Indigenous people. What we are witnessing now and what we know will continue to happen to all women and birthing peoples in this country, is that striking down Roe is dangerous and will cost countless lives. There is no scenario where women and birthing people will not be put at further risk. It creates a stark choice about how to care for women during this time. Our inherent sovereignty as Indigenous women and people determines that we must decide our own fate, and not allow the state to define these outcomes on our behalf. Upholding Roe v. Wade is the very least this country could have done, after centuries of the systemic oppression of anyone not white, male and Christian,” said Ms. Foundation for Women’s Indigenous Women’s Advisory Committee in a statement.
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This decision will change access to abortion care for millions of people, setting into motion states with trigger laws. Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming will automatically or with little action ban access to abortion care. There are 68 tribal nations that will be impacted by these trigger laws. Missouri became the first state to ban abortions on Friday afternoon.
South Dakota, Louisiana and Kentucky will immediately ban abortions in their state. South Dakota has nine Indigenous nations within the boundaries of the state. Louisiana has four.
Former vice-president Mike Pence called for a national ban on abortions.
“I do think there is a role for Congress that they could have protected this right a long time ago,” said Coya White Hat-Artichoker, Rosebud Sioux Tribe, program officer at the Ms. Foundation. “I think that's what needs to happen.”
"Roe was egregiously wrong from the start," Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the majority opinion. "Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division."
The most conservative justice on the court, Clarence Thomas, said in his concurring opinion that the court should reconsider its rulings in cases that protect a married couple’s right to contraception and LGBTQ rights.
“Independence, self-sustainability for women was made possible one because of contraception, because of the pill,” Corrine Sanchez, executive director of Tewa Women United said. “It's patriarchy. It's about domination and control.”
The right to abortion care will now be decided by state governments.
“Roe held, and Casey reaffirmed, that the Constitution safeguards a woman’s right to decide for herself whether to bear a child. Roe held, and Casey reaffirmed, that in the first stages of pregnancy, the government could not make that choice for women. The government could not control a woman’s body or the course of a woman’s life: It could not determine what the woman’s future would be,” Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan wrote in their dissenting opinion.
“This decision by the Supreme court that was released today is detrimental to our practice of sovereignty. Our belief that our women and birthing peoples can make decisions for themselves,” Sanchez said.
An issue that White Hat-Artichoker is worried about is clinics being overwhelmed with the number of people they will now have to serve should half the country ban abortions.
“A lot of clinics are already overwhelmed and with the influx of people who are going to other state to try to access services, it’s going to create much more pressure,” White Hat-Artichoker said.
The other is the criminalization of those who do have abortions in states that ban it. This can become an issue when complications arise from abortion pills or when traditional medicines are used.
There's a potential for criminalization and we saw that already happen in Texas just a couple months ago,” White Hat-Artichoker said.
While this ruling is devastating for the bodily autonomy of women and people who give birth, a handful have expressed their support of the Supreme Court decision.
“The scales of justice have weighed in favor of life. This is a historic day in our country. The sanctity of every life has prevailed and the unalienable rights prescribed by our forefathers have been restored,” US Rep. Markwayne Mullin said in a statement. “I am grateful for the system of checks and balances that allows for judicial review of prior decisions. And I am grateful as well for the affirmation of States’ rights, allowing states like Oklahoma to elevate life.”
"This decision endangers the lives of so many women," Rep. Sharice Davids said. "Look, any decisions that you have to make about your body are yours alone."
Lead photo: Sarah Adams-Cornell, Choctaw, at the Ban Off Rally and People's Hearing at the Oklahoma State Capitol on April 5, 2022. She co-founded Matriarch, a nonprofit that promotes the social welfare of Native women. Photo by Allie Shinn