A grassroots organization is raising money for an abortion fund entirely aimed at indigenous peoples while raising public awareness.
A film screening in Albuquerque that served as a fundraiser for Indigenous Women Rising raised $ 300 late last month. The money is used to support an abortion fund for aboriginal people in the United States and Canada. So far this year alone, the IWR abortion fund has helped 18 people get abortions. The fund can help with the cost of the abortion itself. The IWR Abortion Fund also helps with other practical aids such as gas, food, and childcare expenses related to an abortion.
But Rachel Lorenzo, co-founder of IWR and who is from Laguna Pueblo and Mescalero Apache, said that in addition to fundraising, the organization’s staff wanted to raise awareness by attracting new people, especially whites, at the IWR event because abortion care is “more nuanced for Natives”.
“Join us in dismantling these barriers,” Lorenzo said.
Although health care is a Native American right through treaties with the federal government, the National Congress of American Indian reported that in fiscal 2017, the Indian Health Service spent 3,332 $ per capita for patient health services while national health care spending is $ 9,207 per person. .
The Hyde Amendment, a piece of legislation that has been enacted annually since the 1970s, prohibits the use of federal dollars for abortion except for rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. Because of this, Indian Health Service cannot provide abortions to Aboriginal people.
Much of the state’s reserve land is far from the major cities of New Mexico where the few abortion clinics exist, further complicating abortion care when time is of the essence.
“The abortion debate is not just about Roe vs. Wade. We want people to understand that the most important thing is Roe deer has already broken its promise to the aboriginal people, ”said Lorenzo.
But, Lorenzo said that indigenous peoples have “helped each other” during labor and delivery and that abortions are not new to Native Americans.
“We have had abortions since time immemorial, because of the drought, the food shortage, we raided or migrated, or the weather was tough,” Lorenzo said. “We’ve always managed fertility, whether it’s using teas or roots to induce a period.”
While there are other funds for abortion, this is the only one specifically for Indigenous people, Lorenzo said.
“There are a lot of considerations people need to take into account when it comes to jobs; they can look after children or elderly parents; they may already be barely able to get to work and are wondering how to put gas in the car, ”said Lorenzo.
The economic costs are further magnified as Native American women earn an average of 58 cents for every dollar earned by a white man.
Lorenzo said most of those who call IWR live out of state. Lorenzo said having to travel long distances to get abortion care is nothing new to indigenous people.
“They (the calls) are starting to come in from Florida, Wisconsin, the Dakotas, California,” Lorenzo said. “Some callers may be going to California for abortion care. They could live in Washington or Oregon; they could be in school; it may be advisable for them to leave the house for reasons of privacy or security. We are starting to receive more calls in Georgia.
Lorenzo said IWR staff were hearing from Indigenous people who had to take extreme measures – sleeping in a car due to mandatory 72-hour wait time laws in some states or due to a necessary court circumvention which are legal requirements in some states for young people to obtain abortions without parental consent.
Radical but shouldn’t be
When you speak with NM Policy ReportLorenzo called IWR’s work radical because of the systemic racial oppression indigenous peoples face and the way abortion is treated.
“The work we do should not be radical. It should be normal, ”said Lorenzo. “We shouldn’t have to do this seemingly radical job. It is not a marginal part of health care. It is one of the safest procedures one can get in a lifetime.
Lorenzo said the way abortion is treated in wider culture stigmatizes and shames those who seek an abortion. Because the Spaniards began to shame indigenous peoples upon their arrival, shame has long been part of the colonization of indigenous peoples.
The collar that is part of some traditional clothing of Pueblo women is the result of the shame felt by the Spanish colonizers when they arrived in what is now New Mexico, according to Lorenzo. Previously, Laguna wore more flexible nursing clothes, Lorenzo said. This is another form of colonization that the IWR has strived to change. In 2017, IWR modified the costume, with the help of an award from the WK Kellogg Foundation to take the idea beyond the prototype, so that the dress that contains the collar is more suitable for breastfeeding.
“There is a long history of casting shame on our bodies to cover ourselves up and we don’t talk about it,” said Lorenzo.
To ensure that the IWR uses the funds only for natives of the United States and Canada, IWR questions callers about their blood quantity. The concept of the blood quantum began with the federal government in the late 1800s as a way to create census numbers of different tribal members. Many critics consider it a genocidal policy.
“It’s disgusting,” Lorenzo said when asked what it was like to use it.
The blood quantum defines lineages related to Native American ancestry based on the tribal roles of the federal government. It affects Native American identity as well as the ability of native peoples to use various services, including health care. Some critics equate the blood quantum with colonial oppression and racism because, besides Native Americans, only dogs and horses are also judged by the blood quantum. Critics also accuse that it is an act of genocide because it is a means of reducing the number of Native Americans.
“Before the federal government and the Spaniards, we didn’t have any lists or a record of who Laguna or Apache is,” Lorenzo said. “Some were counted (in roles) who weren’t even from that tribe; maybe they got married or were visiting. What does that say about who becomes aboriginal and who is not and who makes these decisions? We know that our largest indigenous community goes beyond tribal and territorial borders. It is difficult to reconcile that with money for aboriginal people when they already have great difficulty in accessing health care.
But, in order to ensure that the IWR Abortion Fund really only helps Indigenous people in the United States and Canada get abortions, Lorenzo and the all-volunteer IWR staff question callers about the issue. amount of blood. Lorenzo said IWR has been able to be flexible. If a caller can show a photo of themselves in Aboriginal attire or can provide a yearbook photo taken at an Aboriginal school, IWR will accept it, Lorenzo said.
“We had to be really creative,” said Lorenzo. “It is possible to be native and grow up on the reserve without encountering the quantum of blood. It is a reality for a growing number of aboriginal people.
Lorenzo and IWR will continue to make fundraising efforts.
Lorenzo said a bowlathon is in the works in the coming months for another fundraiser. To raise funds in the past, IWR hosted a dance party, benefited from a creative pie sale, and partnered with fundraising efforts for other abortion funds. New York comedian Eva Victor tweeted about the rising Native Women‘s Abortion Fund on Thanksgiving Day in 2018 and in one day the fund received around $ 26,000 from the Twittersphere.
“I still don’t know how she found us,” Lorenzo said.
But beyond immediate fundraising concerns, Lorenzo’s broader mission of reproductive justice means that IWR staff sometimes provide a compassionate sounding board and help the caller by researching a range of information about types of services the caller may need.
“We try to walk the march; the appellant is a full person, ”said Lorenzo.