Friday, March 07, 2008

Abortion ban affects Native American women only

The Senate has approved a ban on abortions for Native American women except in very rare cases. The vote came on an amendment to an Indian health bill. Not only will women of this particular ethic group feel the brunt of this ban but Native American women are more than three times as likely to suffer rape and sexual abuse as other women in the United States.

This from the Washington Independent:
Following scant debate, the Senate last week approved an amendment to an Indian health are bill that would permanently prohibit the use of federal dollars to fund abortions for Native Americans except in rare cases. The move has prompted an outcry from women’s health advocates—who point out that a similar ban has existed on a temporary basis for years—and from tribal groups, who are asking why Native American women should be subject to restrictions not applicable to other ethnic groups. Some charge that the Senate proposal is overtly racist.

The issue is a sensitive one in American Indian communities, where women are
statistically more likely to be victims of rape or sexual assault than other American women—but also where victims very rarely use the exceptions to the current federally funded abortion ban in the wake of those crimes. In the face of that discrepancy, advocates say, Congress should encourage victims to take advantage of the available services, not impose tighter restrictions.

The debate pits anti-abortion lawmakers on both sides of the aisle against health-care advocates who fear the latest move could set the stage for broader abortion prohibitions under federal programs outside the realm of Indian health services. In addition, there is the intrigue of scandal, for the sponsor of the controversial amendment, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), made headlines last year for his earlier entanglement in a prostitution ring. Several abortion-rights sources suggested that
Vitter—who built his political career on family-values issues—is trying to bolster his conservative credentials in the wake of that embarrassment.

The controversy swirls around a federal law—known as the Hyde amendment—that prohibits abortion coverage under Medicaid, Medicare and Indian Health Service programs. While the Hyde law must be renewed by Congress each year, the Vitter amendment—which the Senate approved on Feb. 26—would apply Hyde’s restrictions permanently to IHS beneficiaries. For that reason, tribal health advocates charge that the Vitter language treads on the sovereignty of Indian communities and places unique constraints on native women.

"It’s a very racist amendment," said Charon Asetoyer, executive director of the Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center, "[because] it puts another layer of restrictions on the only race of people whose health care is governed primarily by the federal government. All women are subject to the Hyde amendment, so why would they put another set of conditions on us?"
You can read the entire article here.


Paul H said...

By definition, any vote by the U.S. Senate regarding Indian affairs is racist.

goodwolve said...


Comrade Kevin said...

I'm glad you brought this to light. This is what I always conceived of the role of the blogger--to unearth the things that get submerged underneath the deluge of daily life.

sarah said...

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