The Republican Party’s latest effort to defund Planned Parenthood is yet another example of how white men play games with Native women’s human rights. The effort picks on Native women in a way that is unique, ugly and arguably racist.
Let me explain.
The Republican Party’s efforts to shut down Planned Parenthood—led primarily by old ass white men—are no doubt deeply rooted in patriarchy and probably misogyny as well. But there’s a racial tinge to this whole affair as well—the Republican effort to shut down Planned Parenthood speaks profoundly about its relationship with Native women as well.
Why do Republicans want to shut down Planned Parenthood? Well, the real reason is that they simply love to interfere into business that is not their own—women’s wombs, gay people’s bedrooms, etc. etc. But their rationale here is that there was a series of videos surfaced this summer which show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of fetal tissue after an abortion. Some Republicans see that as an opportunity to press Congress to defund Planned Parenthood as part of a broader spending package.
Maybe. If Planned Parenthood officials are selling fetal tissue, ew. Yuck. Shame on them—if there is some evidence of that, by all means investigate and get rid of them. But we don’t know that (yet)—there’s been no investigation and this whole affair stinks of politics. All we have currently are some nasty videos made by anti-abortion activists. I’ve seen the movie “Prometheus”—I know what some video editing can do!
Currently, Planned Parenthood gets roughly $450 million a year in federal funding and federal funds are prohibited by law from being used for abortion. Therefore, Planned Parenthood’s federal funding (allegedly) only covers services such as cancer screenings and birth control.
How does this affect Native women? Well, two ways. One way affects Native women specifically and uniquely and the second, in the same way it affects all financially vulnerable women, of every color. Number one, as a matter of legislative fact the same privileged white men who love making financial decisions about ALL women’s wombs have an inordinate amount of control over Native women’s wombs. That is so because Indian Health Services funding and priorities are dictated by those same privileged white men who want to defund Planned Parenthood and feel they know what’s best for women generally.
Indian Health Services is the primary health care provider for most Native people—although the United States has a trust responsibility to provide health care for Native people, those privileged white men largely get to choose what type of health care they’ll provide. God forbid that their politics clash with the health care that those Native women need—there are specific examples of times when the reproductive rights (human rights!) of Native women clashed with the politics of these privileged white men before.
To wit, as recently as the 1960s and 1970s the Indian Health Service deceptively sterilized a large percentage of Native women who were between the ages of fifteen and forty-four. Those doctors failed to provide women with necessary information regarding sterilization; used coercion to get signatures on the consent forms; gave improper consent forms; and lacked the appropriate waiting period (at least seventy-two hours) between the signing of a consent form and the surgical procedure.
The second way that the proposed Republican shutdown of Planned Parenthood affects Native women is that Planned Parenthood provides services for all financially vulnerable women and the financially vulnerable simply cannot afford many of the services except with organizations liked Planned Parenthood.
Therefore, it puts Native women (and other financially vulnerable women of all colors) in a jeopardy that women who can otherwise afford those services are not in—they are punished for being broke. Also, a SMALL part of Planned Parenthood’s work is abortions—three percent. That’s important—the pundits are making it sound like that’s all they do, and that’s just not true.
Look, I’m not a Democrat or a Republican—both parties have historically lacked integrity and haven’t shown any real loyalty or service to Native people. Yet, this desire to interfere in women’s wombs is uniquely Republican. It’s misogynistic, it’s disgusting and it affects Native women uniquely and we need to be aware of that.