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|12-16-2011, 12:31 PM||#1|
Indian Healthcare Improvement Act
Anti-abortion amendment attached to Indian Health Care Improvement Act
Tuesday, August 26 2008
Written by Michelle Chen,
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(This piece was originally written for Chicago-based In These Times magazine (www.inthesetimes.com) Reprinted with permission.)
When it comes to their health, American Indian women face extraordinary barriers – from high disease risks to increased incidents of sexual violence. They now face another obstacle, rooted in the political battleground of abortion.
The Senate’s recent passage of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act was a breakthrough for advocacy groups that have long pushed for the bill’s provisions – new programs, improved facilities and funding for the Indian Health Services (IHS) system, which serves about 1.9 million people nationwide.
But the victory is dampened by a poison pill provision slipped in by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) that explicitly restricts abortions under IHS programs. The amendment was approved along with the bill in February. As In These Times went to press, it was unclear whether the House would vote on companion legislation carrying a similar amendment.
Speaking at a Right to Life rally in January, Vitter boasted that his amendment put “clear, strong, pro-life language in that Indian healthcare bill.”
In fact, the amendment mostly replicates an older, more general ban on abortion funding under federal health programs, known as the Hyde Amendment. IHS is already subject to those restrictions, which allow federal financing for abortion only in cases of rape, incest or endangerment of the pregnant woman’s life.
Still, Vitter’s initiative entrenches Hyde’s strictures more firmly by directly changing IHS’s long-term governing statute. Enacted in the late 1970s, Hyde is subject to annual revision when renewed through the appropriations process. It mainly applies to Medicaid, but anti-abortion groups have lobbied to expand its reach in other areas, such as the military and federal prison health systems.
Opponents say Vitter has tethered crucial health programs to an anti-abortion agenda and brazenly targeted Native women’s reproductive rights.
“It’s a race-based amendment, because it’s trying to reduce our right to access abortion more than any other race of women in this country,” says Charon Asetoyer of the Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center (NAWHERC), a research and advocacy organization.
Critics point to slight differences in the wording of the Vitter amendment that could tighten existing restrictions – for instance, the limitation of the incest exception to women under 18.
Although some states offer separate funding for abortions deemed medically necessary for overall health, Hyde has generally succeeded in raising barriers to abortion for poor women. By making abortion prohibitively costly, the funding restrictions have historically led many women to have abortions later, at greater medical risk, or not at all, according to a study by the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive-health policy group.
The consequences of abortion funding restrictions are uniquely dire in Native communities, where women are disproportionately poor, more likely to be sexually assaulted, and acutely limited in their options for dealing with unplanned pregnancy.
“Native women are so much more vulnerable on so many levels,” says Sarah Deer, a Minnesota-based victim advocacy legal specialist with the Tribal Law & Policy Institute, “from health problems, to being victims of violence, to housing. We’re the ones suffering the most on a lot of different issues.”
According to research by NAWHERC, IHS facilities performed only a handful of abortions over a two-decade period. But the Center has also found that IHS staff routinely failed to properly enforce the Hyde Amendment’s protections for assault survivors. Meanwhile, state health records indicate that Native women in North and South Dakota and Alaska are over-represented among abortion cases compared to their overall state populations, suggesting that many are resorting to private abortion providers.
This isn’t the first time the abortion issue has ensnared Indian Country. In South Dakota, which has an especially high Native population, Asetoyer and other activists campaigned successfully in 2006 against a proposal for a statewide ban on abortions. A similar initiative is up for a referendum vote this November.
But since the Vitter amendment would not dramatically change current abortion policies at IHS, the bigger concern is that it will sink the Native health bill altogether, killing prospects for a much needed funding infusion.That would still be a victory for Vitter, who voted against the bill even with his amendment.
To Kitty Marx, legislative director of the National Indian Health Board, an advocacy group representing Native communities, the health of nearly 2 million American Indians and Alaskan Natives is being subsumed in a political proxy battle.
“[This] is an Indian healthcare bill – written by Indians for Indians,” she says. “If Congress wants to have a national debate on abortion, then have it on a national bill.”
Asetoyer says Vitter’s initiative creates a cruel dilemma for activists focused on the intersection between reproductive rights and Native health issues. She continues to support the bill despite the amendment: “We just may have to eat this one, because we cannot use this to stop the bill from going through. Otherwise, we’d end up with no healthcare at all.”
|12-16-2011, 05:14 PM||#2|
Oddly enough Sen. Vitter's state show a stat of 2% of other have abortions in his state, so the 1st was black women then white women and then Other, 2%, so of all the Native, Oriental, Hispanic, Latino, European, people in his state, he felt, one small percent of the smallest percent needed this stipulation? In fact the national average is about the same, almost every state in the Union show 2% Other. So why? Any thoughts
|12-20-2011, 07:29 AM||#3|
AH LOVE LAUGHIN!
this is what i was trying to say in another thread where i was asking questions about the “new” abortion laws going into affect. How a whole lot of money is going into pushing and passing these ‘add ons”...targeting minorities....mainly us! It has the backing of those rich christian groups like THE 700 CLUB....where i first heard about what was going on...from their point of view.
It will continue to happen unless we all wake up and do something ourselves! We need to speak up to our representatives, and to anyone and everyone. I am so glad you put this here! YES WE ARE BEING TARGETED! AGAIN!
THANK YOU PIGHEADED.
|12-20-2011, 10:32 AM||#4|
And here is where I grab my
I'm a registered Republican, and I'm proud of that, I have the same belief now as when Regan was in office, the only people I hear saying the Reps are what the Dems use to be and vice versa are quite truthfully Dems. I believe in the same principles of what it meant to be a republican then as it does or supposed to now, but here is the hypocrisy of it all. This Republican, Sen. David Vitter, from La, has voted against H.R.3590, a bill which unconstitutionally proposed to force people into having healthcare, whether they could afford it or not, yet places a stipulation in the Indian Healthcare Improvement Act that equally infringes on ones constitution. As much as I disagree with abortion, and I do not believe tax payer monies should pay for them, where does a person get off screaming about Government forcing stipulations upon the people, yet do the same thing. Here boys and girls is the hypocrisy, and just goes to show you that a [email protected]$$ is a [email protected]$$, whether Democrat or Republican.
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