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The Native American Women Who Fought Mass Sterilization


<b>The Native American Women Who Fought Mass Sterilization</b>Over a six-year period in the 1970s, physicians sterilized perhaps 25% of Native American women of childbearing age. That history matters.
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In the 19th century, the federal government forced Native peoples onto reservations or relocated them in urban areas without adequate support. Life on reservations resulted in a cascade of public health disasters. Infants and children became particularly vulnerable to illness and death. Approximately three-fifths of Indian infants died before age 5. Native women responded by bearing more children despite their compromised health.  Many Native Americans struggled with poverty. Most depended on government organizations like the Indian Health Service, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The Indian Health Service was their main health provider. Because Native Americans were dependent on these government organizations for health services, they were more at risk for forced sterilization than other groups. Most of the physicians performing this procedure viewed sterilization as the best alternative for these women. They claimed it would improve their financial situation and their family's quality of life. Many of these physicians believed that Native American women were not intelligent enough to use other methods of birth control. Thus, sterilizing these patients was seen as the most reliable birth control method. When doctors were polled on their recommendations to patients they received in private practice and asked about their attitudes regarding birth control policies, 94% said they would approve of compulsory sterilization for a mother on welfare with three or more children. With fewer people applying for Medicaid and welfare, the federal government could decrease spending on welfare programs. Poor women, the disabled, and the women of color were targeted for similar reasons. An article titled 'Indigenous women in Canada are still being sterilised without their consent' and published on the website vice.com by Ankita Rao on September 9th, 2019, alleged that they were still doing this up til the 90s in Canada against First Nations women and that it was still happening today.

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