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Gurr, Barbara. “The Failures and Possibilities of a Human Rights Approach to Secure Native American Women’s Reproductive Justice.” Societies without Borders: Human Rights and the Social Sciences 7, no. 1 (2012): 1–28.


Exploring the limits and potential benefits of a human rights approach to reproductive health concerns of Native American women, this author uses the Oglala Lakota Native American Reservation, Pine Ridge, located in South Dakota as a case study. Incorporating years of participant observation, semi-structured interviews, analysis of government documents and national and international treaties, the author exposes systematic violations of Native women’s human rights. Focusing on care provided through Indian Health Services (IHS), the article sheds light on both lack of access to needed services and glaring problems with available care, which result in negative impacts on maternal and child health. Gurr presents evidence of a long history of medical acts perpetrated against Native women without informed consent, including forced sterilization, induced delivery, and long-term birth control. While IHS health care clearly violates national agreements and treaties, she points out the challenges in prosecuting these rights abuses. This article offers in-depth analysis that situates Native women’s health within national and international human rights agreements and historical oppression. The author notes the tension between the individual framing of a human rights approach with Native communities emphasis on collective experience. Reproductive justice is offered as a framework that offers a potential solution to this tension, as it situates women’s individual experience within a web of interlinking social, political and economic inequities.


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Related Topics

Government regulation   Race/ethnicity: Native American/Indigenous   Intersectionality   Human rights   Health disparities