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2009-10-20 / Front Page

Plan B: An Option IHS Forgot to Mention

LAKE ANDES, SD – Charon Asetoyer is the Executive Director of Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center in Lake Andes, S..D. NAWHERC is a multifaceted organization that provides direct services and addresses policy issues for women and service agencies. NAWHERC provides shelter or transitional housing for displaced or abused women and children, and also has an Internet broadcast station that gives information on women’s issues. NAWHERC is considered a clearing house for health education to tribal agencies in the U.S. and Canada and has a strong focus on health related environmental and reproductive issues.

Asetoyer said , “We are just about to announce a national campaign in all Indian communities to educate Indian women on their rights to have better contraceptive options become available through their main health provider: Indian Health Services. The campaign is aimed towards the Native American population so women across the nation will outcry to Indian Health Services concerning the rights of Native women to have the same options of birth control as other women.”

Charon Asetoyer Charon Asetoyer According to a study conducted by NAWHERC, Indigenous Womens Reproductive Justice, A Survey of the Availabillity of Plan B and Emergency Contraceptives Within Indian Health Services, “In the case of sexual assault, there is no uniform and accessible policy regarding sexual assaults and 27 percent of IHS service unit hospitals contract out sexual assault services and this extends the time a patient must wait before receiving care and introduces unnecessary burdens to an already traumatic situation.”

The study also reveals that “according to the Department of Justice 176,540 women reported being raped or sexually assaulted in 2005. The rates are higher for American Indian and Alaska Native women, who are 3.5 times more likely than other women in the US to be raped or sexually assaulted.” The report further states that, According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network half of sexual assaults go unreported and many women may not seek medical help.”

Asetoyer said, “Emergency contraceptives, commonly called the morning after pill, work the same way as hormonal contraceptives. There is currently available an over the counter (OTC) contraceptive called Plan B. Plan B does not require a doctor visit, an examination, and is less harsh on the system. It is available at any pharmacy, no questions asked, to anyone 17 or older.”

“IHS currently offers a few choices of provider controlled contraceptives, such as Depo Prevara,” Asetoyer stated. “ Depo Prevara is prescribed even for the young women that may have only occasional sexual contact, as opposed to women that are involved in a permanent long term relationship. Depo is contraindicated in many Native American Women because of the effect it may have on young women who are still growing and its relationship to bone loss and in women with diabetes, it makes blood sugars more difficult to control, it may enhance blood pressure issues, and it exacerbates depression and increases suicidal thoughts. It increases the chance of strokes and is not good for anyone that smokes. “Why aren’t Indian women allowed the same choices as all women. Why is Depo Prevara available and regularly used in IHS, and Plan B is not offered as a viable option?”

Plan B is called the morning after pill, but it is not the abortion pill. It is a legally considered contraceptive. The Food and Drug Administration has found that since Plan B has become available OTC the abortion rate has decreased by 50%. Asetoyer said, “Plan B offers protection for women in the case of unplanned intercourse or in the instances of rape. In today’s IHS service unit system If an Indian women decides to utilize birth control she will first have to see a doctor, have a pregnancy test, then take the order to the pharmacy to dispense it. That usually cannot be done in 72 hours. This system offers no protection for unplanned sex, yet Plan B as an OTC is available on demand and can be taken immediately.”

“There is an attitude, among IHS health care providers,” states Asetoyer, “that Indian women are not quite able to understand the technical aspects of their own health care. This is condescending and needs to be corrected. Indian Health Service has a responsibility to its consumers to provide health care that is consumer friendly and addresses the needs of Native Women.”

“If I can have the last word,” Asetoyer said, “then it would be this: Indian Health Service, you are being paid to provide service to us, and it better be the best care possible.”

For further information on Plan B or other Indian women’s rights, policy, health, or reproductive issues you may contact Charon Asetoyer: P.O. Box 572, Lake Andes, SD, 57356 or email: charon@charles-mix.com

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