Campaign seeks to make Plan B pill available through IHS
By Lailani Upham
PABLO — There is an emergency contraception for women 17 years
and older on the market approved through the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration; however, according to the Native American Women's
Health Education Resource Center Executive Director Charon Asetoyer, it
is not available through most Indian Health Service pharmacies.
The emergency contraceptive is known as Plan B, and has been
available since 2006. Sometimes known as "the morning after pill," it
contains a high dose of levonorgestrel, a hormone that prevents
Plan B is not an abortion pill.
According to Asetoyer, NAWHERC is making concerted efforts to
have Plan B accessible through Indian Health Service as an
over-the-counter option by launching a public awareness campaign. The
campaign calls for rightful access to Plan B through (IHS), especially
for survivors of sexual assault.
According to Asetoyer,
following a NAWHERC Survey Report and Routable Report, the campaign
aims to address the actions exhibited by the Indian Health Service's
inability to provide this needed healthcare to Native women in regards
to their sexual health and reproductive rights.
The tablet is taken within 24 hours of unprotected sex and
reduces the risk of pregnancy by 95 percent. The method not only works
fast; it is less harsh on the body than the options that are being used
through most Indian Health Services, she said.
One of the reasons it is so important for IHS to offer this
option is due to the far off locations that most Indian reservations
are; which make it a barrier for Native women to get the contraceptive
if they have to travel to towns. "Some women don't have the resources
to get Plan B from their local Walgreens or other pharmacies. Some
women don't have cars, or money for gas either," she explained.
said that native women should have the same choice as other women
across the U.S. to have access to the Plan B method for preventing
Although Plan B has been available without a
prescription to adult women since 2006, the NAWHERC Survey found that
it is not provided over-the-counter at 90 percent of IHS pharmacies.
This alarming percentage clearly documents that IHS pharmacies are not
abiding by the FDA's decision to make Plan B available, Asetoyer said.
the survey also revealed that 40 percent of IHS pharmacies provide Plan
B, but only by prescription. This is highly problematic as the efficacy
of Plan B is extremely time-sensitive, and requiring a woman to wait
long hours at the clinic to see a healthcare provider could greatly
reduce the effectiveness of Plan B.
Asetoyer also stated that
IHS facilities lack standardized policies and immediate access to Plan
B for survivors of sexual assault, which violates the reproductive
rights of Native women. Only 56 percent of IHS facilities provide
victims of rape with access to Plan B, whereas an additional 17 percent
of IHS facilities provide a different though less effective and more
physically stressful prescription form of emergency contraception, she
"Native women are denied their legal right to Plan B, which
illustrates the federal government's control over the right of Native
women to govern their own reproductive decisions," she said.
the rural locations of many reservation communities, IHS facilities
that do not provide immediate emergency contraception severely limit
the reproductive freedoms of Native women in those communities. This
campaign strives to ensure that emergency contraception, such as Plan B
or its generic equivalent, is available at all IHS facilities OTC to
any woman 17 years or older and is incorporated into the IHS sexual
assault policies and protocol.
Currently the local Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal
Health pharmacies do not offer the over-the-counter Plan B option.
However, it does provide a method of emergency contraceptive that is
prescribed by a doctor, according to Tribal Health pharmacy officials.
Plans are unknown whether or not CSKT Tribal Health will offer the Plan B option.
person cannot do it alone. We need the support of our leadership, so we
(native women) can have access to Plan B," Asetoyer said.
For more information or to order the survey or roundtable on
Plan B availability contact the Native American Women's Health
Education Resource Center at (605) 487-7072.