Health & Education

No anticipated changes to Tribal health plan after Roe decision

06.29.2022 Danielle Harrison Health & Wellness, Tribal members

By Danielle Harrison

Smoke Signals assistant editor/staff writer

A recent landmark Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade might affect Tribal members who are living in states that have or plan to ban abortion following the ruling.

Although a majority of Grand Ronde Tribal members live in Oregon, Washington and California, where abortion is guaranteed by state law, there are approximately 350 Tribal members who live in 17 states that have or plan to ban abortion since Roe was overturned. For instance, more than 80 Tribal members live in Texas and about 60 live in Idaho.

Because of 1954’s Termination and the subsequent diaspora to seek employment, Grand Ronde Tribal members live in more than 40 states and the District of Columbia.

While it cannot be easily determined how many of these Tribal members are female and/or of child-bearing age, those who need to seek the medical procedure will likely be affected.

Currently, the Tribal member health care plan covers 90 percent of costs for an abortion with a $1,500 limit through First Choice Health.

When asked if the Tribe would expand its reproductive care option to cover expenses for Tribal members who might have to travel out of their respective state of residence for the procedure, Health Services Executive Director Kelly Rowe said she is not currently anticipating making changes to the program.

“Reproductive health is a very personal matter and those are conversations that we are happy to have with our individual Tribal members we serve,” Rowe said in an e-mail.

While there has been discussion of Tribal Nations in states that restrict abortion becoming “sanctuaries” due to their sovereign status, it is highly unlikely to happen for several reasons, including the fact that private funds would largely be required to build and operate clinics because a majority of Native Americans and Alaska Natives receive their health care funded by the federal Indian Health Service.

Abortions are excluded from federal health care due to the Hyde Amendment, which restricts using federal funds for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or danger to the mother’s life. Those federal exceptions are not being included in many proposed and adopted state abortion bans.

The June 24 Supreme Court ruling overturned 50 years of federal precedent that made it illegal to ban abortion until fetal viability and sent that decision back to individual states to decide.

The Supreme Court’s ruling in 1973’s Roe v. Wade recognized that the choice to terminate or keep a pregnancy belonged to the individual, not the government, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights. It stated that Roe was based on the premise that the concept of “liberty” guaranteed in the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution includes the right to have an abortion. 

Contains information from High Country News