Native American women could face more hardship if Roe is overthrown

Choice advocates say quashing Roe v. Wade would put more pressure and hardship on Native American women in South Dakota, who are twice as likely as other races to be victims of sexual assault, according to the US Department of Justice.

Reversal the landmark abortion decision – as leaked documents indicate, this could be on the horizon – would exacerbate long-standing concerns on reservations about the lack of adequate health care and reproductive services for Indigenous women in a state with an Indigenous population by 9%.

According to the 2021 U.S. Census Bureau, families headed by Native American women with children had the highest poverty rate in the nation, with more than two in five (43%) living in poverty. A lack of financial resources can make it harder for Native women to travel or get medical help if they have to leave South Dakota for the procedure.

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Charon Asetoyer, executive director of the Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center on the Yankton Sioux Reservation, said that even within the state’s current legal landscape, getting an abortion in South Dakota is already “almost impossible” for many Native women due to restrictive measures taken by Governor Kristi Noem and the state’s Republican-dominated legislature.

“Pierre’s politicians… have no compassion for women”

With Indian health service clinics limited by the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of federal money for abortions in most cases, Native women must go to the only abortion clinic in the state at Planned Parenthood in Sioux Falls for multiple visits separated by a 72-hour waiting period, with public funding prohibited unless the mother’s life is in danger.

“It’s very difficult for women coming from hundreds of miles, and of course that’s the point,” said Asetoyer, who founded the Andes Lake-based resource center in 1988. “You’re talking about politicians to Pierre who have no compassion for women, and they want to make it as difficult as possible for us to have access to health care resources.

Abortion rights protesters display signs during a protest outside the U.S. Supreme Court, Sunday, May 8, 2022, in Washington.

Abortions are only performed two or three days a month at one location in South Dakota – the Planned Parenthood Clinic in Sioux Falls, which also provides a wide range of other reproductive services. Doctors who perform abortions must be flown into South Dakota from neighboring states because there are no local providers.

A breakthrough that could make things easier is medical abortion – a combination of two pills that can be prescribed within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, which currently accounts for more than half of all abortions nationwide. Noem signed a law mandating three clinic visits – two for doses and a follow-up appointment. This does not allow women to receive the pills in the mail from certified prescribers or pharmacies, using video or telephone medical consultations as needed, a process approved by the Food and Drug Administration last December.

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U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier granted a preliminary restraining order South Dakota Legislative Action on Medical Abortionruling that plaintiff Planned Parenthood “has shown that the personal, financial, and logistical barriers of traveling to the clinic for three separate appointments at regulated time intervals constitute a substantial barrier to a person seeking a medical abortion.”

This case could be rendered moot this summer, when Supreme Court rules on Mississippi abortion ban with Roe v. Wade suspended in the balance. A leaked draft opinion authored by Judge Samuel Alito sparked speculation the court was leaning toward ending federal constitutional protections for the right to abortion, triggering a 2006 legislative ban in South Dakota that would make all illegal abortions.

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Traveling to other states is not possible for many

Options that might be available to some women, such as traveling to a state where abortions are still legal, are another matter for many on the reservation, located in some of the poorest counties (Ziebach, Buffalo, Todd, Oglala Lakota) in the United States.

“These types of bans specifically target people of color, especially in such a rural state with great distances to travel and no social safety net,” said Kristin Hayward, advocacy and development manager for Planned Parenthood at Sioux Falls.

The notion of tribal sovereignty has been raised in relation to abortion rights in South Dakota, without much success. Cecilia Fire Thunder, the first woman elected president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, announced plans to start a family planning clinic on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 2006, an effort to resist anti-abortion efforts by the US legislature. ‘State. She was impeached later that year by the tribal council, which accused her of acting without the consent of the tribe.

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Asetoyer, former member of National Health and Social Services Advisory Board, rejected the idea of ​​using tribal law and sovereignty to protect Native American women from federal and state restrictions on abortion. “Tribal governments are not going to get involved in the issue,” she said. “The churches have had too much of an impact. It is considered too radical.

The battle must be fought through national and local advocacy and elections, she said, a daunting challenge for choice advocates in a state where efforts to restrict reproductive rights were taking place long before the announcement of the possible end of the Roe protections against Wade.

“Roe hasn’t been in the South Dakota norm for many years,” Hayward said.

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