Indigenous women worried and fearful over abortion ruling - Cherokee attorney

By Stefan Dimitrof

The US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the right to have abortions in many states is reverberating around the world.

The overturning of Roe vs Wade, which will allow states to ban and criminalise abortion, is expected to affect millions of Americans and their access to abortion.

However, the most affected would probably be indigenous women and women of colour, who had been found to be up to three times more likely than white women to die due to pregnancy complications, Native American researchers said.

Mary Kathryn Nagle, a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, is an activist working on violence against native women, and missing and murdered indigenous people issues. Also an attorney, Nagle said that after the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the right to have abortions (in some states) native women were in mourning.

“We are worried and fearful following the Supreme Court’s decision in terms of what it will mean for our lives and our healthcare.”

The Roe vs Wade decision was built on the foundation of a constitutional right to privacy, and Nagle said people were now concerned about how the “decision could affect other precedents related to the right to privacy”.

Systemic injustices

“There is a genuine level of anxiety and concern in the United States right now and especially among native women.”

Nagle said that it would be left to the states to decide whether they would act on the decision of the Supreme Court and outlaw abortion or do nothing.

Nagle said that in the US Indigenous women were more likely to be raped and to be survivors of incest.

She also said that due to the systemic injustices experienced by indigenous women they were more likely to have complications or health issues during pregnancy.

A number of states have passed laws banning abortions and the Supreme Court decision would allow these laws to take immediate effect in some cases and in a few weeks' time in others.

“Many states are passing laws that will make abortion illegal in cases of incest, in cases of rape or in cases of ectopic pregnancy, which is a huge health risk for the mother," Nagle said.

That would particularly affect indigenous women who were more likely to be pregnant due to a result of rape or other forms of sexual abuse and violence.