Despite advances in health care across the country, Native Americans continue to suffer a significantly lower health status than any other minority group within the U.S. Native American women on rural reservations are a particularly vulnerable population, facing the same barriers to quality health care as low-income and rural women with countless added challenges resulting from geographic isolation, racial segregation, displacement and cultural trauma. Native women experience disproportionate levels of violence, especially sexual violence[i], and more than one in three Native women will be raped in her lifetime.[ii] The principal federal health care provider for Native people, the Indian Health Service, fails to offer comprehensive and quality care to Native women, often denying them access to rape kits, emergency contraception, and quality or safe contraceptive pills.[iii] As the country has grown increasingly politically polarized in the past twenty years, issues around “reproductive health” have become conflated with controversial abortion politics, and many now use the terms interchangeably. Reproductive justice, however, encompasses a far broader range of concerns within women’s health. The struggle for reproductive justice, then, refers to a growing movement to ensure that women have the same access to quality care—regardless of their socioeconomic status, geographic region, or cultural heritage. In this, it positions abortion as part of a continuum of healthcare.
Reproductive justice is inextricably tied with the fundamental rights—to education, to government systems that “work,” to equal economic opportunities—to which every citizen is entitled. By moving the discussion away from the timeworn polarities of the abortion debate, and instead embedding “reproductive rights” within a framework of social justice issues, our project allows for broad identification. In this way, we re-contextualize the dialogue around “abortion politics,” with the ultimate goal of strengthening existing supporters while simultaneously drawing in new voices and perspectives.
Young Lakota is not only a sensitive portrayal of bright young people finding their way through the choices they make, it also gives insight into South Dakota’s struggle over a woman’s right to chose. The thread of choice runs through the film: the personal and political choices of Brandon and Sunny; the political and personal choices of the tribal council; all played out against the backdrop of South Dakota’s referendum on the new state law banning abortion.
Young Lakota is making a very timely arrival the 40th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Th decision by the US Supreme Court in 1973 legalized abortion, upholding a woman’s right to choose. Written by Justice Harry Blackmun and based upon the constitutional right to privacy, struck down dozens of state anti-abortion statutes. Now, television, radio, newspapers, and nternet sources are focusing public awareness on this, its anniversary. Although Roe v. Wade is supported today by 70% of Americanstate legislators like those in South Dakota continue each year to strip away women’s rights with intrusive legislation. South Dakota is a leader in state-based attempts to rol back Roe v Wade.
[i] Timothy Williams, “Higher Crimes, Fewer Charges on Indian Land,” The New York Times, February 20 2012. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/21/us/on-indian-reservations-higher-crime-and-fewer-prosecutions.html
[ii] University of Minnesota, Office on Violence Against Women “Violence Against Native Women” Available at: http://www.vaw.umn.edu/documents/nativewomen/nativewomen.pdf
[iii] Center for American Progress, “The Failing State of Native American Women’s Health: Interview with Charon Asetoyer,” Center for American Progress, May 16 2007. Available at: http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2007/05/charon_asetoyer.html