Women’s Health


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Violence Against Women Act

Obama Signs Violence Against Women Act into Law   BY CHERYL CEDAR FACE · 03/08/2013 · GOVERNMENT ·www.americanindianreport.com

President Obama signed the expanded Violence Against Women Act into law on Thursday afternoon. With the law’s signing, tribes now have jurisdiction to prosecute non-Native Americans for crimes committed against women on Indian land.

“Indian Country has some of the highest rates of domestic abuse in America.  And one of the reasons is that when Native American women are abused on tribal lands by an attacker who is not Native American, the attacker is immune from prosecution by tribal courts.

Well, as soon as I sign this bill that ends,” Obama said.

“Tribal governments have an inherent right to protect their people, and all women deserve the right to live free from fear.  And that is what today is all about,” he continued.

Jefferson Keel, president of the National Congress of American Indians issued a statement praising the bill. “Today represents a historic moment in the nation-to-nation relationships between tribes and the federal government. Now that the tribal provisions have been enacted and protection for all women reauthorized, justice can march forward,” he said.

Factsheet: The Violence Against Women Act

Under the leadership of then-Senator Joe Biden, Congress recognized the severity of violence against women and our need for a national strategy with the enactment of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994. This landmark federal legislation’s comprehensive approach to violence against women combined tough new provisions to hold offenders accountable with programs to provide services for the victims of such violence. VAWA has improved the criminal justice response to violence against women by:

• holding rapists accountable for their crimes by strengthening federal penalties for repeat sex offenders and creating a federal “rape shield law,” which is intended to prevent offenders from using victims’ past sexual conduct against them during a rape trial;

• mandating that victims, no matter their income levels, are not forced to bear the expense of their own rape exams or for service of a protection order;

• keeping victims safe by requiring that a victim’s protection order will be recognized and enforced in all state, tribal, and territorial jurisdictions within the United States;

• increasing rates of prosecution, conviction, and sentencing of offenders by helping communities develop dedicated law enforcement and prosecution units and domestic violence dockets;

• ensuring that police respond to crisis calls and judges understand the realities of domestic and sexual violence by training law enforcement officers, prosecutors, victim advocates and judges; VAWA funds train over 500,000 law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges, and other personnel every year;

• providing additional tools for protecting women in Indian country by creating a new federal habitual offender crime and authorizing warrantless arrest authority for federal law enforcement officers who determine there is probable cause when responding to domestic violence cases. VAWA has ensured that victims and their families have access to the services they need to achieve safety and rebuild their lives by:

• responding to urgent calls for help by establishing the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which has answered over 3 million calls and receives over 22,000 calls every month; 92% of callers report that it’s their first call for help.

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“I took to heart the health issues of American Indian women” – Charon Asetoyer

Charon Asetoyer, Comanche, is founder and executive director of the Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center, a grass-roots women’s health institute on the Yankton Reservation in South Dakota, past executive director and founder of Native American Community Board, committee member of the National Minority AIDS Council and past board member of the Indigenous Women’s Network and the National Women’s Health Network.

In 1978, AIM orchestrated The Longest Walk from Canada across the United States to protest anti-Indian legislation that would abrogate treaties and to address the issues of American Indian religious freedom, the desecration of graves and the thousands of Native women who were being sterilized in a government program.

North west GirlSterilization abuse was uncovered when AIM absconded with BIA documents during their 1972 occupation of the building in Washington, D.C. The files revealed that 42 percent of Indian women had been sterilized.

The federal Indian Health Service sterilized an estimated 25 percent of women between 15 and 44 years old during the 1970s, reportedly without consent and with little understanding of its permanence. In 1975 alone, 25,000 American Indian women underwent tubal ligations or hysterectomies at the hands of IHS.

In 1978, the women of AIM rose apart from the power struggles that were splintering the male leaders to bring their minds together toward restoring women’s sovereignty to mother the nations’ children. More than 300 women from 30 nations gathered at a meeting in South Dakota. The group emerged as Women of All Red Nations (WARN).

“Back in the 1960s, when everything came to the surface about sterilization abuses, the federal government passed a law that mandated a 30-day waiting period for a woman to decide if she wanted to be sterilized,” she said. “No one’s ever evaluated how effective the 30-day wait is. We hear women saying they were told that if they didn’t, they wouldn’t get their welfare.”

According to IHS’s family planning, Native women are supposed to have access to birth control, but options are decided by doctors and family planning services, she said. IHS doesn’t have standardized sexual policies in place.

“With the number of assaults against our women, it’s not acceptable,” said Asetoyer. “They could reduce the number of rapes by having standardized policies in place, providing forensic evidence.

“With the number of assaults against our women, it’s not acceptable,” said Asetoyer. “They could reduce the number of rapes by having standardized policies in place, providing forensic evidence. Right now it’s difficult to have rape conviction. IHS has a complicated witness appropriation process. Their staff who perform rape exams have to get permission from the federal government to witness. This process can go into some big dark holes. Cases are lost repeatedly.”

This is intentional on the part of HIS. It’s another way of carrying out human oppression where they could play a big role in helping, she said.

Rape leads to alcoholism, which is self-anesthetizing, she said, and IHS is doing nothing to approach this as a public health issue. Many of its facilities do not provide sexual assault exams because IHS contracts out to other facilities, meaning that a woman may have to travel more than 100 miles after being assaulted to have that test.

In Aberdeen, over representation among all – cervical cancer, because the human papilloma virus was purposely introduced there to study its effects. The area was sacrificed, said Asetoyer. In the 1990s, government health workers set out to convince mothers to give their children the hepatitis vaccine which, because of a trace of mercury in it to preserve its shelf life, causes neurological damage and resulted in an increase in autism among children. Tribal governments were bribed with grants to provide more health care but were not informed of its risks, she said. The Center for Constitutional Rights stopped the government from promoting its use without informed consent, but not before a lot of damage had been done to the children.

“Our communities are still being used as testing grounds,” said Asetoyer. “We do everything we can to inform our communities. Women today are a lot more aware.”

AWHERC also organizes around voter rights and getting people to participate in the political process. “It will change all kinds of election outcomes,” said Asetoyer. “We’ve gained a place at the table. It’s important we’re there to know what’s going on before anything is implemented.” The battles continue, she said. “We have to stay constantly on top of things,” said Asetoyer.     Excerpts From: News From Indian Country  4/08
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Life Expectancy drops for some U.S. women (women in general, not Native women alone)

Women’s life expectancy drops in some US counties By Associated Press 10:20 PM EDT, April 21, 2008

WASHINGTON – Women’s life expectancy declined significantly in 180 U.S. counties, mostly in the deep South and Appalachia, between 1983 and 1999, according to a study being released Tuesday.

Researchers blamed the decrease in women’s life expectancy on high blood pressure as well as chronic diseases related to smoking and obesity, such as lung cancer and diabetes.

The decline, averaging 1.3 years in the 180 counties. Men’s life expectancy declined by 1.3 years in only 11 counties.

In another 783 counties, women’s life expectancy declined by 0.5 years, but the researchers said those results were not statistically significant because those counties were relatively small.

The study, based on data from the National Center for Health Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau, was designed to analyze disparities in life expectancy between different counties with different social conditions and health programs.

Overall, life expectancy rose for both men and women between 1961 and 1999. For men, it increased from 66.9 years to 74.1 years; for women, it rose from 73.5 years to 79.6 years.

Between 1961 and 1983, no counties had a statistically significant increase in mortality, the study said, noting that the reduction for both sexes was caused by a reduction in cardiovascular mortality.

From 1983 on, however, “The worst-off counties no longer experienced a fall in death rates, and in a substantial number of counties, mortality actually increased, especially for women,” the researchers wrote. Life expectancy of women in those counties was 75.5 years in 1999.

“The study emphasizes how important it is to monitor health inequalities between different groups,” the researchers wrote, “in order to ensure that everyone — and not just the well-off — can experience gains in life expectancy.”

The analysis was conducted by researchers at Harvard University, the University of California, San Francisco, and the University of Washington. It was posted Monday night in the online journal PLoS Medicine, a publication of the Public Library of Science, an organization of scientists and physicians.

Over these four decades, the researchers found that the overall US life expectancy increased from 67 to 74 years of age for men and from 74 to 80 years for women. Between 1961 and 1983 the death rate fell in both men and women, largely due to reductions in deaths from cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke). During this same period, 1961–1983, the differences in death rates among/across different counties fell. However, beginning in the early 1980s the differences in death rates among/across different counties began to increase.

The worst-off counties no longer experienced a fall in death rates, and in a substantial number of counties, mortality actually increased, especially for women, a shift that the researchers call “the reversal of fortunes.” This stagnation in the worst-off counties was primarily caused by a slowdown or halt in the reduction of deaths from cardiovascular disease coupled with a moderate rise in a number of other diseases, such as lung cancer, chronic lung disease, and diabetes, in both men and women, and a rise in HIV/AIDS and homicide in men. The researchers’ key finding, therefore, was that the differences in life expectancy across different counties initially narrowed and then widened.
The decline in female life expectancy after 1983 was caused by a rise in mortality from lung cancer, COPD, diabetes, and a range of other noncommunicable diseases in the older ages (Figure 4; detailed numerical results available in Dataset S1). Female mortality from lung cancer, COPD, and even diabetes had also risen in 1961–1983, but this rise was surpassed by the decline in cardiovascular disease mortality.

The rise in mortality for these causes in 1983–1999 was no longer compensated by the decline in cardiovascular mortality because cardiovascular decline became substantially smaller than it was in 1961–1983 (women in the worst-performing group, group 6, actually experienced a rise in cardiovascular mortality in the oldest age group). In 1983–1999, the rise in HIV/AIDS and homicide deaths in young and middle-aged men was a major contributor to male, but not female, life expectancy decline. Mortality from diabetes, cancers, and COPD in the older ages also worsened in men but these continued to be countered by relatively large reductions in male cardiovascular mortality.
Between 1961 and 1983, counties with life expectancy improvement above and below the national average had relatively similar income levels; average county income was lower in those counties whose life expectancy change was below average and indistinguishable from zero (group 5), but these represented <1% of the female population (Table 2). Black women formed a larger proportion of the population in counties with above-average life expectancy improvement than in those counties with below-average life expectancy change; the pattern was reversed for men. After 1983, gain in life expectancy was positively associated with county income. The proportion of blacks was higher in counties with life expectancy decline, especially for men, but there were no detectable patterns of sociodemographic factors across other county groups in Figure 3.

There was a steady increase in mortality inequality across the US counties between 1983 and 1999, resulting from stagnation or increase in mortality among the worst-off segment of the population. Female mortality increased in a large number of counties, primarily because of chronic diseases related to smoking, overweight and obesity, and high blood pressure.