Thunder in the abortion debate

Erin Roof

Pregnant women in South Dakota sure are lucky. Now they don’t have to worry when deciding whether to terminate their pregnancies. A white, male Republican senator/religious zealot (characteristics that obviously create an expert in the subject of pregnancy) has made women’s decisions for them.

In March, South Dakota passed the most restrictive abortion bill in the nation. It aims to ban all abortion, even in cases of rape and incest. But Sen. Bill Napoli did relent on “News Hour with Jim Lehrer” that he could see an example of one rape case in which abortion could be justified. The ber Christian went on to suggest abortion would only be proper if the rape victim was a religious virgin, who was saving herself for marriage, and had been “brutally raped” by some type of crazed thug. Probably an atheist.

“I mean, that girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically that carrying that child could very well threaten her life,” Napoli explained. Apparently for the rest of South Dakota’s rape victims, physical and psychological trauma is not an issue — or maybe Napoli thinks non-virgins deserve to be raped.

Enter Cecilia Fire Thunder. Like women across the United States, the former president of South Dakota’s Oglala Sioux Tribe fumed about the anti-women themed abortion law. Fire Thunder fought to stand in the way of the ban. Then she lost her job.

Fire Thunder believed the ban’s exclusion of a rape clause was inhuman. She also railed against the idea of men interfering with women’s important decisions.

“Ultimately, this is a much bigger issue than just abortion,” she said in an interview with the ‘Daily Kos Blog.’ “The women of America should be outraged that policies and decisions about their bodies are being made by male politicians and clergy. It’s time for women to reclaim their bodies.”

Fire Thunder, a former nurse and caretaker, planned to bypass state government to open a non-profit abortion clinic on the tribe’s reservation in Pine Ridge, S.D. Because Native American reservations are sovereign, the state’s abortion ban could not apply to a clinic based out of the area.

The proposal shook the state’s anti-choice brigade and, ultimately, enraged the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s leadership. The council charged Fire Thunder with overstepping her authority by using her position to rally for women’s rights and politicizing the tribe. The Oglala Sioux council impeached Fire Thunder, the tribe’s first female president, in June.

Still, the women of South Dakota are continuing to fight for control of their reproductive rights. Pro-choice advocates have collected enough signatures to include a referendum on the Nov. 7 ballot that would give voters the opportunity to decide the future of the abortion ban.

South Dakota is likely to be the catalyst that will bring the abortion debate to a showdown in the Supreme Court. Many feminists worry President Bush’s appointment of two conservative justices, along with the court’s underrepresented female voice since the departure of Sandra Day O’Connor, will tip the decision to anti-choice. Roe v. Wade may soon be a memory unless more women like Cecilia Fire Thunder fight on.

Erin Roof is a senior magazine journalism major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Just like Pete Doherty, she would “rather be reckless than rockless.” Contact her at [email protected].