The statistics are stark. More than 1 in 3 Native American women will be sexually assaulted their lifetimes, a rate much higher than the general population. In one study, a stunning 92% of young women reported they had been forced to have sex against their will on a date.
One of the primary fears of any rape victim is an unintended pregnancy. The first line of defense against that possibility is, of course, the prompt administration of emergency contraception.
And this is where things get tricky for many Native women. Most receive their health care from the Indian Health Service and affiliated tribal health centers. Of 157 IHS facilities, only 10% surveyed stock Plan B in their pharmacies, and only 37.5% carried some alternative form of emergency contraception. In the Albuquerque Area, which covers almost all of New Mexico and Utah, only two of its 15 facilities stocked Plan B.
"If you are living on the reservation or on the Pueblos without insurance, or the money to pay for EC or transportation to get you to town, you are out of luck, because you do not have accessibility through our own health care provider," says Charon Asetoyer, a Comanche from Lake Andes, South Dakota and Executive Director of [the Native American Women's Health Education Resource Center].
And that assumes women even know to ask or find it. "A lot of women in our communities aren't aware that Plan B even exists or they associate it with the abortion pill RU486, they don't realize the difference because the media and the opposition have projected this: it's an abortion pill, when it really is a contraceptive," Asetoyer notes. [...]
The so-called “conscience clause” also comes into play. "We have had rape victims given prescriptions to get EC, but at IHS they wouldn't administer it, because the Pharmacy Director and her staff didn't believe in it, so she wouldn't administer EC," says Lisa Thompson-Heth of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe in Fort Thompson, South Dakota. [...]
"It's not an aspirin; it's not cold tablets,” says Asetoyer. “It's withholding services from a victim.”
I first saw this thanks to Meteor Blades (Open Thread for Night Owls) at Daily Kos.