In the US, one in six women will face rape or attempted rape in her lifetime. Specify that to Native American women, and statistics say one in three will face rape at least one in her lifetime. Yet despite facing the highest national rates of rape of any ethnic group, Native American women are largely left behind when it comes to federal measures to protect their reproductive health. A new report from the Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center (NAWHERC) says that Native women living on reserves face huge obstacles in accessing the emergency contraceptive pill, Plan B. The 2010 Tribal Order Act mandated that the federal Indian Health Service develop and implement sexual assault policies, but the NAWHERC report shows that they have been negligent in actually doing so at a local level. The IHS oversees most health facilities within reservations, and as NAWHERC executive director Charon Asetoyer discusses in her interview with Colorlines, these facilities have been limiting Native women’s access to emergency contraception.
So are you saying that IHS facilities don’t offer emergency contraception to rape victims?
They do offer it, but they’re using the old, harsh formula of several high-dose birth control pills. First of all, why would a woman have to go through that? And second of all, to get the old treatment, you have to have a prescription. A lot of women who have experienced spousal rape or date rape don’t want to report it to a physician. Even if they do, the [only] clinic within 100 miles is closed for the weekend and there’s no emergency room close by. Basically they’re being denied a service they’re entitled to under the Affordable Care Act.
Asetoyer says the Department of Health and Human Services needs to demand that the IHS make Plan B available on demand and over the counter to women 17 or older. Considering the disproportionate rate at which Native women face rape, providing access to emergency contraception should be a priority. And since 86% of reported rapes against Native women are committed by non-Native men, this is not a problem only the Native women in need of contraception should be fighting.
Native American Women Lack Access to Plan B [The Feminist Wire]
Why Native American Women Are Battling for Plan B [Colorlines]
Read the full report by NAWHERC here.