"I am Native. And I'm pro-choice. Many people seem to think this is an oxymoron - but to me, it makes perfect sense. I have unraveled much of the oppression I was forced to swallow and internalize over the years, which obstructed my ability to wholly see that concepts of "choice" and having "options" in our sexual and reproductive lives are really not new things at all. Moreover, I am entitled to advocate for choice from within my culture, which has always valued women's choices and decision-making. First and second wave feminism did not "give" my people reproductive rights; in fact those of us in Native communities had them a long time ago. And how "pro-choice" identities play out in our communities now probably looks a lot different than what most people think.
Throughout history, many Indigenous women around the world have interacted with other Indigenous women through various women's societies, which held respected positions of significant political power. Looking closer at traditional teachings and practices within First Nations, Inuit, and Métis nations throughout North America, it is evident that methods of family planning and birth control, including abortion, were performed as necessary procedures to ensure the health and welfare of communities which have women at its core. Although we are vastly diverse in terms of societal structure, whether matriarchal (e.g. Mohawk) or egalitarian (e.g. Inuit), it is clear that the right to govern one's own body and take care of it they way we choose, is a foundational principle shared amongst us all.
Choice is a critically important teaching which is sacred in principal. Yet this structure - in which the community is supportive of decisions made for the best interest of women and the community - is in many instances a far cry from where we are now. Although the debate between those who are "pro-life" and "pro-choice" won't end as long as we live in patriarchal societies, this fight is a clear effect of generations of colonization and genocidal oppression - through which we are still suffering. Many of the values, practices, and traditions once held strong in our Aboriginal communities are now lost, and this most definitely includes the rightful place of our women to govern their own bodies."
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Jessica Yee: Reclaiming Choice for Native Women
(RH Reality Check 6/22)