Native American women are subjected to much higher levels of sexual violence than other women in the United States; the Department of Justice estimates that read than 1 in 3 Native American women will be raped in their lifetime, and they are often denied access to justice.
According to a new report, Native American women are also denied access to emergency contraception through the Indian Health Service (IHS). The report, from the Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center, includes the personal experiences with sexual assault and the perspectives of women of a diverse number of Tribes. It describes the barriers Native American women face when attempting to access emergency contraception and outlines steps that should be taken in order to provide them with on-demand access to emergency contraception.
According to the organization’s 2009 research:
1) Only 10% of IHS unit pharmacies surveyed have Plan B available over the counter (OTC); 2) 37.5% of pharmacies surveyed offer an alternative form of emergency contraception; and 3) The remaining have no form of EC available at all.
At Change.org, a petition has been created to ask IHS Director Dr. Yvette Roubideaux to issue a directive to all IHS service providers to make emergency contraception available on demand without a prescription or doctor visit to all women 17 or older.
In the report’s introduction, Charon Asetoyer the Center’s director writes:
As the country debates the access to Plan B as an OTC for women 16 years and younger, Native American women 17 years and older have yet to receive access to Plan B as an OTC by their primary health care provider, the Indian Health Service. No one but Native American women are concerned about this denial of service. As Native American women we are the only race of women that is denied this service based on race. To make an exception to a legal form of contraception based on race is not acceptable. To deny a Native American woman access to Plan B as an OTC when every other woman in this country can access it is a denial to a basic health care service, which violates her human rights. It is a direct violation to her sovereign right to make decisions for her own health care, it removes her from the decision making process concerning a potential pregnancy resulting from a rape and puts that responsibility of decision in the hands of a government agency.
Sign the petition to support Native American women’s right to access emergency contraception.
Why Native American Women Are Battling for Plan B – at Colorlines, an interview with Charon Asetoyer. In it, Asetoyer notes that another possible solution is for the Department of Health and Human Services to mandate that all Indian Health Service providers to make Plan B or its generic form available OTC. Contacting HHS on this issue may be another avenue for action.
NAWHERC’s Plan B National Awareness Campaign, including the PSA below for Native women: