Access to sexual and reproductive healthcare is a basic human right. However, Native American women in Montana face numerous significant barriers to care.
Indian Health Services (IHS) is chronically underfunded and understaffed. In Montana, an IHS clinic could be up to an hour and a half drive, and only 30% of local residents have personal transportation. Traveling to get care also means added costs because people have to take time away from work, find child care, etc. Because accessing healthcare is such an ordeal, many Native American women put off preventative screenings, receive limited prenatal care, and have inconsistent access to birth control. The Native American birth rate is 1.8 times higher than the national average and, in Montana, the native life expectancy is 20 years less than the national average.
56% of Native American women report experiencing sexual violence, and 90% of that group report that the assault occurred at the hands of a non-tribal member. IHS does not have protocols for women who seek care after being sexually assaulted. There is no guarantee the survivor will get a rape kit, emergency contraception, or STI testing. Without a rape kit, there is no way to prove the perpetrator guilty which withholds justice from the survivor and threatens the future safety of other women. Many Native American women have stopped seeking medical attention after sexual assault occurs due to the lack of care.
These barriers lead to poor health outcomes for individuals and families, and disproportionately affect women’s health and economic mobility.
This reality for native women is unacceptable. October 8th is Indigenous People’s Day, and we urge you to stand up for justice for native women. Contact Hopa Mountain and/or email Marsha Small (firstname.lastname@example.org), cofounder of Indigenous People’s Day in Montana, to find out ways you can help.