Category Archives: On The Ground

Young Lakota Fights for EC for Native Women

Sunny Clifford, on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

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

TWITTER: On #BUYBC day, a young Lakota woman,@SunnyClifford, is fighting for access to #EC for Native women http://chn.ge/HeZlhq

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.


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On the Ground: Getting to Know CO

Greetings from Denver – I’ve finally arrived!

Not without incident, of course. I wish sometimes I had counted how many hours over the past five years I’ve spent stranded in airports, wrangling with airlines, and cursing the lack of electrical outlets in terminals. I won’t bore you with the details but to say that Delta managed to make me miss my first flight, which put me next to a drooling hunter on the second flight…but it was all well worth it!

The fabulous Beth K. of NARAL Colorado picked me up from the airport and took me and my absurd amount of luggage back to the NARAL headquarters. It’s truly a campaign office, with ‘No on 62′ yard signs, buttons, stickers, and the like all over the place. Oooh, and zucchini cupcakes. And, of course, a crew of fabulous hardworking young feminists – I arrived as several were coming back from canvassing for votes, two were making volunteer recruiting calls for the next canvas (which is, no joke, on a party bus!), and one was cutting out small invites for the members-only champagne reception on September 30th.

I sat down with Beth to go over the schedule for the next two weeks – I won’t recount it here because it’s long but mostly because it’s overwhelming. There are rallies on campuses, rallies in parks, a potluck, meetings with students, a screening of my film, phone banks, canvassing, and media interviews. I’m also taking charge of NARAL Colorado’s Twitter and Facebook streams so, go follow!

The picture above is of Beth serving as a human teleprompter for me as I film a video promoting the NARAL Colorado Voting Guide. See, no one told me when I became a feminist organizer that I would be asked (with increasing frequency, for some reason!) to be in videos, on the spot, with no prep time. I’ll post it in a few days if it’s usable!

After that, dinner and dessert with the amazing staff, who I will introduce you to in the next couple of days. Tomorrow, look for video, more photos, and the start of a series of stories from the women working on the campaign and those who will be affected most if the “personhood” amendment is passed.

Finally, a note on the title of this series, ‘On the Ground.’ As you probably know, nothing makes me angrier than the myth that young women aren’t feminists. But a close second and third are the myths that the young feminists of my generation who do exist don’t care about reproductive rights and we don’t do any offline activism to complement our blogging. Both are untrue and both stem from a misunderstanding of what I see as evolving Forth Wave feminist ideology. We care very much about reproductive issues, so much so that we’ve expanded the framework from advocating for political ‘reproductive rights’ to advocating for and making ‘reproductive justice’ for all women and men. And, yes, we do a lot of that activism online, writing to raise consciousness, making out own counter-media, and connecting our networks to amplify previously silenced voices. Often, as I hope to do with this series, we do all of these things in conjunction with on the ground organizing, whether it be making calls, canvassing, organizing rallies schools or community centers, lobbying representatives…the list is endless.

As I said in a (very tired) toast last night: here’s to young feminists, not cogs in a wheel but the brains behind the operation, not the future of the movement but the now, on the front lines, changing the world, saving lives, on the ground.

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