“We’ve Been Here. We Will Continue to Be Here.” A Conversation With Indigenous Women Rising

Rachael Lorenzo talks to Imani Gandy about reproductive coercion, reproductive justice, and running an Indigenous-led abortion fund.

Photo of abortion rights protesters gathered at the Supreme Court
Black and Indigenous people are the communities most at risk of reproductive coercion from the state. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Rachael Lorenzo is a survivor of reproductive coercion. The co-founder of Indigenous Women Rising sat down with Rewire News Group‘s senior editor of law and policy, Imani Gandy, for a conversation on the intersection of race and and reproductive rights. It’s part of Rewire News Group‘s new Instagram series Repro Changemakers.

Here’s a brief transcript of the conversation.

Rachael Lorenzo: LARC coercion is where medical providers, whether in collaboration with law enforcement or a court system, or not, just on their own because of medical providers who are mostly white and their value judgements on how we live our lives as Indigenous people and can also be applied to Black folks and immigrant folks, anyone who’s not white. And so being pressured into having a LARC inserted, whether it’s an IUD or Nexplanon, the little match stick that goes in your arm, and once it’s in there, refusal to take it out. And be told like, “Oh, all of these adverse side effects that you’re experiencing are actually normal. That’s a sign that it’s working.”

Very short story: I had an IUD inserted after I had my first kid, the copper IUD. And for ten months I bled the entire time. And I went to the ER three times in the city and was told that they would not take it out because it was working. I went to Indian Health Services, they didn’t even have anyone trained to take out an IUD. When I finally got it taken out on the fifth try, the bleeding stopped almost immediately. And so that’s an example that a lot of my cousins and aunties have gone through with essentially this long-acting reversible contraception, which can stay in our bodies for years at a time, impacting our ability to make our own decisions about when we want to have children or even just trying to get relief from some of the adverse side effects that might come with having a LARC.

Imani Gandy: So, I wanted to talk about access. I wanted to talk about the ways in which Indigenous communities suffer in different ways. The different ways in which Indigenous communities suffer as a result of winnowing access or access that has been virtually eliminated, particularly in Texas. What are you hearing from providers and from patients on the ground? And I just wanted to say, if you’re just joining us, I am speaking with Rachael Lorenzo. They are the co-head and founder or head and co-founder of Indigenous Women Rising. And this is part of our new Rewire News Group series called Repro Changemakers. And they are Repro Changemakers. So we’re very excited. So please talk to us about access and how it affects Indigenous communities differently.

RL: Yeah, so we exist. First and foremost, this is Native American History Month. … Where I’m at in Albuquerque, I’m on my ancestral Pueblo land. We’ve been here. We will continue to be here. There are Indigenous folks in Texas. There are federally recognized tribes in Texas. They are going north a bit more to Oklahoma. The folks, even though we are a nationwide abortion fund, I will tell folks right now, the main states that we fund are red states, Oklahoma being one of them. We’re starting to expand to the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, Montana. Another chunk of who we serve is in Arizona and in the Dakotas, we have excellent working relationships with independent clinics in Arizona, and the Dakotas, and in Oklahoma. And we’re seeing folks from Texas go to the few clinics that they have in Oklahoma. And these are states by the way, that are going to start implementing their own abortion bans or their own restrictions on access.

So this is incredibly concerning for us because we’re probably going to have to start expending more resources and more time to get people to another state. It’s going to push our people further into another trimester. And we’re not the only abortion fund who’s experiencing this. Southwestern Women’s Options, one of the few clinics in the country that provides abortions into the third trimester, is seeing an influx of folks coming from Texas to get care. So whether it’s abortion funds or clinics or advocacy groups that help people find abortion access, there’s a lot of moving parts that we’re trying to monitor, whether it’s upcoming abortion laws, changing restrictions or interpretations of a court decision.

One thing we’re starting to find now is … that crisis pregnancy centers, which are anti-abortion, quite frankly disgusting places, are tricking people who need abortion care into thinking that they provide abortions. So, that way they can convince a pregnant person to carry their pregnancy to term. And we have had callers who fall victim to that. So there’s a lot of things on the ground that are happening, that are impacting the callers that we hear from every day.

The full transcript is available here. You can also watch the conversation that took place on Instagram below.


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