Sunny Clifford, a 26-year-old Pine Ridge Tribal park ranger, has launched a Change.org petition that seeks to improve the quality of women’s lives by making Plan B available—and affordable—throughout Indian Country. Just months after the Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center (NAWHERC) published a startling February 2012 report, “Indigenous Women’s Dialogue: Roundtable Report on the Accessibility of Plan B as an Over the Counter (OTC) Within Indian Health Service,” Clifford’s petition is over 100,000 signatures strong and well on its way to meeting its goal of 150,000 signatures. But with just three voting days left, Clifford’s campaign greatly needs your support.
On the Change.org site, Clifford identifies the overwhelming barriers that prevent Native women from obtaining the emergency contraception pill known as Plan B. This over-the-counter pill, sometimes called the morning-after pill, is routinely given to American women after a sexual assault where pregnancy may occur. Despite the fact that 1 out of 3 Native women will experience rape in her lifetime, the Indian Health Service does not make Plan B readily available.
It makes sense that Clifford is using an online petition to create change in Native women’s lives. She first heard of the NAWHERC report documenting the injustice rape victims who seek Plan B on reservations suffer via Facebook. Clifford says she “liked” the NAWHERC page and had been following it closely. Stunned by the content of the roundtable report on Plan B, Clifford decided to try an experiment in her hometown of Kyle, South Dakota.
“I wasn’t aware that I could get Plan B from IHS and therefore tried to obtain it on my own to see what the process was,” she says. When asked why she attempted to access Plan B since she was not in need of the medication for her own personal use, Clifford explains, “I was compelled because I was now aware that I could get Plan B from IHS, which I wasn’t aware of prior to the report.”
When she went to the IHS office in Pine Ridge, Clifford says she was told that the midwife was unavailable and that she would have to travel about 40 miles, each way, to get Plan B. “When I was told I had to drive so far to get Plan B I felt frustrated and as if nobody cared,” Clifford says. “I do feel like women who need access to Plan B and don’t have the resources, such as a vehicle or gas money, are dehumanized.”
One of the reasons many activists consider Native women’s lack of access to Plan B both a legal issue and a human rights issue is the high incidence of rape in communities where Native women live. With sexual assault occurring in 1 out of every 3 female residents, women on reservations face the same reality women experience in war zones.
“I already knew this statistic of 1 in 3 before the roundtable report,” Clifford says. “I think most Native women are aware without a report that they have a high chance of being raped or sexually assaulted. This statistic is not surprising to me. I live this reality.”"