Abortion ‘Safe-Haven’ In Oklahoma? Tribal Jurisdiction Could Make It Possible

Monday, May 9th 2022, 6:14 pm


Multiple new state abortion laws have led to a wave of unanswered questions in the wake of the McGirt Decision. Specifically, will the state be able to enforce abortion bans on tribal land? 

News 9 legal analyst Irven Box has read through each of the abortion laws recently passed, and the ones making their way through the legislature. He says in a post-McGirt world, tribal lands are a grey area. 

"The same law we see through the McGirt decision will apply to the tribes as it does to the abortion law," said Legal Analyst, Irven Box. 

The relationship between the state of Oklahoma and Tribes has been strained due to the 2020 Supreme Court Decision that put nearly half of Oklahoma back under tribal control. 

"From reading the law, all the laws that regarding our recent abortion laws in Oklahoma. I don't think the issue of tribal lands comes up whatsoever. I don't think it was considered," explained Box. 

Box added that under the McGirt decision, the entire Eastern half of Oklahoma could be in loophole state abortion laws don't reach. 

"[I've] talked with other lawyers and some judges about, could a tribal member open an abortion clinic on Tribal land, unless the tribe makes specific law that prohibit it, I say yes. The answer is yes." Box continued, "if they wanted to apply funds to allow for abortions of indigenous women on tribal land, they could do that." 

McGirt also protects tribal doctors who perform the procedure on tribal lands from legal action, per Box. The same goes for tribal members who aid or abet in the procedure. Box said that goes for criminal or civil charges. As of right now, there are no abortion providers on tribal lands. If one did exist, it's not clear if a non-tribal member would be able to get the procedure after six weeks, the current restriction. 

"Well, that's one case before the Supreme Court, now is does a [Native American] committing a crime on a person non-[Native] on tribal land, is that a crime? Or vice versa? I still think that's up in the air right now," said Box. 

News 9 has reached out to the five tribes who have tribal lands in Oklahoma. Reps said tribal lawyers are currently looking into the matter. None wanted to comment at this time. 


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