Turtle Mountain Chippewa Enact Comprehensive Abortion Ban

On September 17, 2008, the Tribal Council of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians enacted a resolution outlawing abortion on the Tribe’s reservation. The resolution states in pertinent part:

…(A)bsolutely under no circumstances will abortions be performed and allowed within any private or public facility within the boundaries of the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation and other lands under the jurisdiction of the Tribe.

The governing body faithfully believes that life is sacred and begins at the moment of conception between a man and a woman and life to be protected at all levels affirming natural law and reasoning… pro-life is a universal issue of common sense, moral righteousness for the common good of life.

Located near Belcourt, North Dakota, the Tribe’s reservation covers over 140,000 acres and the Tribe has over 30,000 enrolled members. Besides the Turtle Mountain reservation, the resolution would affect the community of Trenton, on tribal trust land in northwestern North Dakota. The area has only one hospital and clinic: the Quentin N. Burdick Memorial Health Facility, which is run by Indian Health Services. In general, the IHS is required to follow federal law, and federal facilities are not subject to Tribal resolutions. Neither the Bureau of Indian Affairs or the Indian Health Service has yet received or ratified the Turtle Mountain resolution.

You can find additional insight on the resolution via Indian Country Today.

Find more information regarding the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians

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Christina Wygant - November 11, 2008 11:05 AM

Of particular interest are the rhetorical devices used in this resolution. While phrases such as "(A)bsolutely under no circumstances" clearly demonstrate zero tolerance for abortion, I question other phrases such as “moral righteousness for the common good of life” as well as “pro-life is a universal issue of common sense.”
To begin, how does one define “moral righteousness”? Whose morals are at stake, while others' are left unquestioned? Can morals be translated into legal terms? Next, what is meant by “common good”? Are unwanted and uncared for babies for the common good? Though it can be assumed that “the common good of life” is referring to the fetus (if not the consciousnesses and/or religious/spiritual beliefs of others), one must question the value placed on the life of the mother. In other words, is it always for “the common good of life” for a mother to have a baby, regardless of (possible) mitigating circumstances such as rape, incest, age, etc.? How old must one be in order to be considered a woman? If the mother is not yet a “woman” (or presumably over the age of 18) as indicated in the moment of conception, would she be liable under this resolution?
Finally, if “pro-life is a universal issue of common sense,” how is common sense defined? As similarly questioned, can “common sense” be translated into legal terms? Who determines what is and isn’t common sense? When stating “common” sense, it can be assumed that more individuals than the Tribal Council have agreed to this, as common sense indicates a communal knowledge or natural understanding of the people. Be it so, one must question if more than the governing body has voted on this resolution. If not, is this a resolution which should be left unquestioned?

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