Lynne Murray says:
If you remember, Cecelia Fire Thunder, the President of the Oglala Sioux Nation in Pine Ridge, South Dakota responded to the state’s highly restrictive abortion ban by vowing to set up a Planned Parenthood center in South Dakota on the Oglala Sioux Pine Ridge Reservation.
A friend of mine sent a donation check. It wasn’t cashed for months and then was returned with an odd, photocopied note stating that the writer supports “our President” and that a clinic called “Sacred Choices Women’s Clinic” would be established but not on the reservation. The letter requested that donations be made out to that nonprofit. My friend wondered if the idea had been co-opted by some anti-abortion group.
The situation was confusing enough that my friend and I spent some time online researching current developments. The “President” referred to is not the one in Washington, but Cecelia Fire Thunder herself who definitely needs the support because on June 29, in an “ambush style” hearing while she was out of town for a medical appointment, she was impeached for soliciting funds and acting without tribal council authority by the Tribal Council. The council then voted to ban abortions on the reservation.
I found a lot of admiring sites, and many scary ones vilifying Tribal President Cecelia Fire Thunder. After reading the hate-filled websites, I wondered whether the tribal council was worried about the difficulty (and dangers) of providing security for the clinic in the midst of a state hostile to the very existence of such a clinic.
Fire Thunder said she never asked for donations but people from around the country sent $14,463 without solicitation. That money is being returned, she said. When you consider that she and her new nonprofit have to cough up postage to return mostly small donations, that is no small task in itself. The modest website notes that the nonprofit has been established to build the women’s clinic, now to be in Kyle, South Dakota rather than on tribal land.
The letter my friend got gave every sign of a small volunteer operation (e.g. the postage-free envelope referred to in the letter wasn’t enclosed) I’ve stuffed many envelopes in my time and I know what it’s like when you send a mailing off and then discover a stack of something that should have been enclosed that’s fallen under the kitchen table!
This controversy is not over yet. As of July 18th, a tribal judge restored Fire Thunder’s job, pending a tribal hearing on July 28, in Pine Ridge.
The South Dakota state abortion ban is going up for a statewide referendum in November.