American Indian Women Pushed to Induce on Reservation?

Amie Newman

The ACLU has filed a lawsuit today claiming pregnant women on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, in South Dakota, are being pressured into undergoing labor inductions, without proper information or support.

The ACLU has posted an excellent Rewire reader diary on this issue.

Pregnant American Indian women, on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, are being pushed into unnecessary labor induction, according to the ACLU of South Dakota.

Despite the reservation being the fourth largest in the state, there is no obstetric care available on the reservation itself. It means that pregnant and laboring women must travel ninety miles to the nearest Indian Health Services contract hospital – St. Mary’s Healthcare Center.

The ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit today against Indian Health Services (IHS) to uncover information that pregnant women are being compelled to take medication to induce labor, as well as to find out what’s happened to plans to build a birthing unit on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, with federal stimulus funds.

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The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs has launched an investigation into the quality of care provided by IHS after finding cases of “mismanagement, malfeasance…as well as potentially criminal behavior” on the part of IHS, in South Dakota. They are calling for “urgent reform.”

Because most of the American Indian women living on the reservation are dependent upon IHS for their healthcare, pregnant women feel they have no choice but to submit to healthcare providers who tell them they must be induced on a particular day – despite the absence of any real discussion of options, risks of or benefits to induction.

Compounding the situation, because the nearest accessible IHS provider is so far away, some women are forced to pick up and leave without any prior notice – leaving family or advocates who may have been able to be with them during labor, behind.

“It is bad enough that these women are denied basic healthcare services on their own reservation,” said Robert Doody, staff attorney with the ACLU of South Dakota. “They should not also feel bullied into being induced at a time that is convenient for their doctor, and sacrifice the right to decide how to give birth.”

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