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A Fight for the Land and our Bodies

Written by Alexandrea Walker

On June 24th, 2022, I spent my morning watching public television with my grandmother in fear of Roe v. Wade being overturned. In between breaks, my grandmother spent time educating her grandchildren on the sterilization of Indigenous women and reproductive rights. Like the majority of the population, I spent the rest of my day furious and frustrated at the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision.

In a few more months, it’ll be one year since Roe V Wade was overturned in the Supreme Court; and another year of our voices being silenced. Within that year, several states have banned abortion, installed strict practices around abortion, and plan to imprison those who leave their state for an abortion. The previously mentioned are not the only borders that prevent our relatives from making safe decisions but also contribute to a much larger problem; We’re not only fighting to preserve the sovereignty of our bodies but the sovereignty of our land too. Attacks on our bodies are directly linked to attacks on the land.

On the surface, a majority of people may have thought that banning abortion would only affect women; however, we know that is not true. In fact, taking away the right to have a safe abortion can be referred to as modern-day genocide, another attempt made by the United States Government to eradicate those who do not fit the majority: straight white Christian men. That being said, the conversation around abortion is more than that. Still, a discussion about reproductive freedom and justice has always been a struggle for those directly impacted by colonial oppression.

It’s important to acknowledge that it wasn’t just cis-women who felt the impact of Roe V. Wade being overturned. People who identified with the BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and disabled communities felt the harsh reality the most. At the same time, it wasn’t just women who were hurt, but those who could give birth and those who could not; this is an every-person issue.

“Throughout the 1900s, thousands of Indigenous women were the targets of forced sterilization at their local Indian Health Service. It’s estimated that 25 - 50% of childbearing-age Native Peoples from 1970 - 1976 fell victim to this process. As a result, Women of All Red Nations (WARN) was founded in 1978 to protect Indigenous people from these predatory and violent medical practices. While Indigenous peoples underwent non-consensual sterilization in their hospitals, Roe was passed in 1973. In 1976, the Hyde Amendment prevented the use of federal funding for abortion care. This meant a legal abortion could never be performed in the Indian Health Services. Therefore, making it inaccessible for Indigenous folks on reservations becomes a systemic issue. Additionally, a lack of access to abortion health care is a factor in the Missing Murdered Indigenous Relatives crisis.” - Great Plains Action Society

If the argument for banning abortion is to “protect all life,” then instead of targeting people in situations where it may save their life, why not implement this in all other forces of life like the environment? I found it hypocritical that pro-life people shouted “Life wins!”, at the overturning of Roe V. Wade, when at the time the earth was on fire in some places of the world. So I ask, whose life is winning when the future is at stake in our current climate crisis? Surely it isn’t the plants that keep us in good health and help us breathe, the animals being forced to migrate from their natural habitats due to extractive practices, or those that are threatened extinction due to human sport.

If we’re following the argument of “protect all human life, " what are we to do about school shootings? What about police brutality? What about the thousands of unsolved Missing Murdered Indigenous Relatives cases? All of which involve firearms to an extent. People are being forced to have children that they cannot afford because of the society we live in today, where it costs money to breathe in some places. Children become lost in the foster system and no longer know who they are. As it stands, the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) is under attack and at the hands of the US Supreme Court.

So we revert. We fall back onto our Indigenous knowledge and teachings that have led Indigenous people for generations. Lessons that were almost forgotten due to the implementation of colonial systems. Even now, that is under threat, with things like Critical Race Theory falling into place and banning education on race, ethnicity, and gender studies. It forbids the teaching of the truth.

While many use the land as a resource to use and extract from, Indigenous people do not share that ideology. We acknowledge the Earth as our mother, the one who takes care of us as we have with her. The way we treat the land is a reflection of how we treat ourselves. That being said, as the climate crisis grows, so will the health crises. The fight to hold our reproductive rights and the fight to preserve the planet are the same. Birth is equivalent to extraction. What have we learned about extractive practices on this earth? It has led to poisoned water, radiation poisoning, and waste. Sure, it creates profit, but where’s the use in capitalistic practices when you can’t buy a secure future?

“Lack of abortion access comes from a deep-seated issue that stems from the fact that the United States is a country founded on Christian values and one that has never truly separated church from state. We are facing an end to the body sovereignty of half the US population because Christian fundamentalists still possess powerful positions in government and large corporations that lobby to end abortion.” - Sikowis, Founder of Great Plains Action Society

The fight for reproductive rights is one for a safe future for everyone, not just the wealthy. The United States has a white Christian problem, and we need to change that. One of the ways you can start the change is by voting and encouraging those around you to vote in the next election. Remember that when you fight for reproductive rights, you also fight for the earth and her existence.

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