Thanks to the efforts of reproductive freedom advocates, emergency contraception — a pill or set of pills that can be taken up to 5 days after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy — is legally available to all women 17 and older over the counter without a prescription.
But for many Native American women, this right simply isn’t a reality. According to a new report by Native American Women’s Health Resource Center (NAWHRC), women who access health care via Indian Health Services often face barriers to getting the drug. Some are told they have to see a doctor in order to get it. Others simply find that the medication isn’t in stock on their reservation.
This is especially alarming in light of the fact that 1 in 3 Native women will be raped in their lifetime. Survivors of rape and sexual assault report being turned away at IHS clinics when they go to request the drugs. Even worse, other women told NAWHRC that they were blamed and shamed for their own assault by the service provider they trusted to help them.
Today is National Back Up Your Birth Control Day and advocates across the country are spreading the message that having EC on hand in case of a birth control failure is the responsible thing to do. But Native women can’t even start there — they’re having to fight for the right to get it at all, in any situation.
Leading the online charge is Sunny Clifford, a twenty six year-old Lakota woman living on the Pine Ridge reservation. Like many people on her reservation, she doesn’t have a car and has to rely on the IHS clinic in her community for all of her health care needs. She worries that if she or one of her sisters needed EC, she wouldn’t be able to get it. And she’s furious that Native women are being denied a legal right by the Indian Health Services, the very institution that’s charged with protecting Native women’s health.
Sunny has started a petition on Change.org asking Dr. Yvette Roubideaux, the Director of Indian Health Services, to immediately issue a directive to service providers on all reservations that emergency contraception must be made available to any woman 17 or older who asks for it, on demand, without seeing a doctor. Sunny believes that if enough people shame Dr. Roubideaux for denying basic health services to Native women, she’ll be forced to make real changes in how IHS distributes emergency contraception.
Will you sign Sunny’s petition and share it with your friends to help demand equal access to emergency contraception? Below are some sample Facebook and Twitter posts to help get you started.
FACEBOOK: 1 in 3 Native American women will be raped. But Indian Health Services is blocking Native Women from accessing emergency contraception when they need it. Will you stand with Indian women to demand equal access to basic reproductive health care? http://www.change.org/petitions/ihs-stop-blocking-native-women-s-access-to-emergency-contraception
Fannie Lou Hamer said, “nobody’s free until everybody’s free.” And a right guaranteed isn’t really a right at all until every single woman can access it. On this Back Up Your Birth Control Day, please stand with Sunny and Native women across the nation to demand equal access to emergency contraception.