Master of Jurisprudence in Indian Law - University of Tulsa College of Law
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Health
In These Times: Poison pill in Indian health care bill


"When it comes to their health, American Indian women face extraordinary barriers — from high disease risks to increased incidents of sexual violence. They now face another obstacle, rooted in the political battleground of abortion.

The Senate’s recent passage of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act was a breakthrough for advocacy groups that have long pushed for the bill’s provisions — new programs, improved facilities and funding for the Indian Health Services (IHS) system, which serves about 1.9 million people nationwide.

But the victory is dampened by a poison pill provision slipped in by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) that explicitly restricts abortions under IHS programs. The amendment was approved along with the bill in February. As In These Times went to press, it was unclear whether the House would vote on companion legislation carrying a similar amendment.

Speaking at a Right to Life rally in January, Vitter boasted that his amendment put “clear, strong, pro-life language in that Indian healthcare bill.”

In fact, the amendment mostly replicates an older, more general ban on abortion funding under federal health programs, known as the Hyde Amendment. IHS is already subject to those restrictions, which allow federal financing for abortion only in cases of rape, incest or endangerment of the pregnant woman’s life.

Still, Vitter’s initiative entrenches Hyde’s strictures more firmly by directly changing IHS’s long-term governing statute. Enacted in the late 1970s, Hyde is subject to annual revision when renewed through the appropriations process. It mainly applies to Medicaid, but anti-abortion groups have lobbied to expand its reach in other areas, such as the military and federal prison health systems."

Get the Story:
Poison Pill Slipped Into Indian Health Bill (In These Times 7/9)

Indian Health Care Improvement Act Amendments:
S.1200 | H.R.1328

Related Stories:
Pro-Life Site: Abortion lobby targets Native women (06/10)