|Al Jazeera reports on the barriers that American Indian and Alaska Native women face in trying to obtain emergency contraception from the Indian Health Service:
The morning-after pill, also known as the emergency contraceptive pill or EC, is a form of birth control intended to disrupt or delay ovulation and prevent a pregnancy when taken within five days after unprotected sex. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, when taken within 72 hours, EC can reduce the chance of pregnancy by roughly 75 percent. Even minor delays drastically reduce the effectiveness of the pill, which makes it imperative that access be unfettered and timely. (About half of the 6.7 million pregnancies in the United States each year are unintended and the teen birth rate, although declining, is higher for Native versus non-Native women.)
Around the country, EC costs anywhere from $30 to $65, but it's free for approximately 1.9 million American Indians and Alaska natives through IHS, which is a part of the Department of Health and Human Services' agency, through their 161 facilities in 35 states.
Access to emergency contraception is especially vital in Native American communities because of the exceptionally high rate of sexual assault (more than one in three Native women is raped in her lifetime versus fewer than one in five for American women overall). Bonnie Clairmont, a victim advocacy specialist at the Tribal Law and Policy Institute, believes the "true number is higher, but that there is a real lack of baseline data." When she goes into Native communities, Clairmont says, women talk not about if, but rather when, they will be victimized.
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