Native and Alaska Native women could face escalating violence if Roe is repealed | Roe vs. Wade

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Repealing federally protected abortion rights would lead to increased violence against women, girls and all who give birth, the director of one of the world’s leading indigenous research institutes has predicted. and Alaska Natives across the United States..

“The only option we have at this time should this be canceled is to provide the limited resources and support, but it will be limited, especially at first. As a direct result, our people are going to suffer,” Abigail Echo-Hawk, director of the Urban Indian Health Institute, told The Guardian.

His remarks followed a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito that showed the nation’s highest court was prepared to overturn Roe v Wade, the nearly 50-year-old ruling protecting the right to abortion until a fetus is viable outside the womb. If this decision becomes official, 13 states with trigger laws would immediately ban abortions. Many other Republican-controlled states are expected to follow suit.

A 2016 study by the National Institute of Justice found that more than one in three Indigenous women had experienced violence in the past year, including sexual violence and intimate partner violence. They were 1.7 times more likely than white women to be victims of violence. They are also at particularly high risk of being trafficked, although comprehensive data is limited.

High rates of these crimes – many of which go unreported, likely due to mistrust of law enforcement – ​​combined with the inability to access legal abortions, may put Indigenous peoples at risk increased, Echo-Hawk explained.

For people in an abusive relationship, not having access to an abortion could force the victim to remain in a bad situation and lead to more violence, she said. Trafficked persons, some of whom are not allowed to use contraception, may face additional violence from their abusers if they become pregnant.

Native and Alaska Native women as well as black women are also two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Echo-Hawk said having access to unsafe abortions or experiencing the mental anguish of being forced into a pregnancy could increase those numbers.

“This mental health and mental abuse that we experience directly impacts a person’s body when they are pregnant, and it can directly lead to premature birth and maternal death as a direct result,” she said. declared. mentioned. “So we’re actually fighting the mental abuse that continues to be perpetuated against us.”

A lack of reproductive autonomy

For decades, Indigenous peoples were subjected to forced sterilization in the United States, with the practice peaking in the mid-twentieth century. Repealing Roe v Wade would shift the scale of their reproductive autonomy — or lack thereof — to a new extreme, said Kerri Colfer, senior adviser on Indigenous affairs for the National Resource Center for Indigenous Women.

“Indigenous people are still dealing with the trauma of colonization, historic violence against aboriginals, forced sterilizations, removal of Indian children and residential schools…being forced to carry a pregnancy is a truly traumatic thing, whether it’s whether a pregnancy resulted from an assault or not. And now we will have another generation with this trauma to carry on,” she said.

The Indian Health Service provides health care to approximately 2.6 million Native Americans and Alaska Natives. But the agency, which is part of the US Department of Health and Human Services, limits abortions to those in which the mother’s life is in danger or in cases of rape or incest that have been reported in the 60 days.

Echo-Hawk, who authored an amicus brief submitted to the Supreme Court on the issue last year, said as part of the effort, his organization reviewed 33 IHS-funded facilities. . They found that between 2002 and 2021, only seven Indigenous women were documented as having visited an IHS facility for an abortion.

Instead, some Indigenous people seek abortions outside of these facilities, she explained. Repealing Roe v Wade would mean Indigenous peoples, some of whom live in extremely rural and impoverished areas, may have to travel much further, to settlements outside their state.

She asked, “How are we going to pay for this trip?”

Since 2014, Indigenous Women Rising, an Indigenous-led and centered reproductive justice organization, has helped hundreds of people through its Abortion Fund by helping to fund the procedure, as well as fuel. , hotels and childcare.

Rachael Lorenzo, its executive director, said if Roe v Wade is canceled they will have to closely monitor abortion policies in the states they serve the most, including North Dakota, South Dakota, L Arizona and Oklahoma, and will likely need more funds. . The organization hosts several fundraising events, including a barbecue for rural communities in southern New Mexico and a two-stage fundraiser.

“People are scared, they’re angry and they’re frustrated. So am I,” said Lorenzo, a descendant of Mescalero Apache, Laguna Pueblo and Xicana. “But we also deserve joy. And if there’s a way to merge the two, by taking action and not letting ourselves get caught up in the fear that’s… that’s really where our energy is going to be.

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