Attitudes Toward Reproductive Health Policy Among Native Americans

Sep 17, 2020
2:29 PM
Originally published at Latino Decisions

The voices of Native Americans are rarely included in research focused on reproductive health, even though this community often suffers from deep inequalities in access to reproductive health and higher rates of victimization of sexual violence. This memo summarizes results from a new survey commissioned by Southwest Women’s Law Center and implemented by Latino Decisions focused on experiences of Native Americans in New Mexico regarding reproductive health policy. This survey was designed specifically for this population, making the results important and timely for both policy-makers, health care service providers, and the wider community.

  • Only 65% of Native Americans in New Mexico believe that Native Americans in their community have access to reproductive healthcare. Perceived access to reproductive health care is slightly lower among residents of Pueblo communities (60%) compared to residents of the Navajo/Diné Nation (66%), and was particularly low among respondents who do not live on reservations/Tribal lands (47%).
  • Only 29% of Native Americans in New Mexico report that to the best of their knowledge, that there is a doctor’s office, hospital, or other health clinic that provides abortions in the community where they normally go to get healthcare. Access to an abortion is lower for Native Americans who live in rural areas of the state (26%), and very limited for those who live on reservation or Tribal lands (10%).
  • Native Americans in New Mexico do not support laws that would make it more difficult for women to get access to an abortion. Only 25% of Native Americans would support a law that would make it a criminal offense for doctors to perform abortions. As the figure below illustrates, not even Native American Republicans would support making abortions a criminal offense.

  • Nearly all Native American residents of New Mexico believe that women and families deserve to make their own healthcare decisions without government interference. A robust 81% of respondents agreed with this statement in the survey, including a majority (66%) of Native American Republicans. Similarly, 72% of respondents believe that they can hold their own moral views about abortion and still trust a woman and her family to make this decision for themselves.
  • Many Native Americans have had direct experience with reproductive healthcare. This includes a third of all respondents who have had a friend or family member who has had an abortion, and one-in-five Native American women who have had an abortion themselves.

  • Far too many Native American women are victims of sexual violence, and this experience motivates a desire for greater access to reproductive healthcare in New Mexico. A third (33%) of Native American women in New Mexico have been the victim of sexual assault or sexual violence, and 60% of these women who have survived this tragic experience report that this had made them realize that we need more reproductive healthcare in New Mexico.

Survey Methodology: Latino Decisions randomly interviewed 302 Native American adults in New Mexico, to our knowledge the largest sample of Native Americans ever collected to understand the experiences of Native Americans and attitudes toward reproductive health policy. The study was conducted between 3/24/2020 and 4/7/2020, and had 158 completed interviews over the phone (cell-phone/landline) and 144 web-based interviews. This mixed mode approach ensured a representative sample of Native Americans across the state, including capturing the voices of those who live in rural areas of the state and who do not have regular access to the internet. Nearly half of our sample (49%) live on reservation/Tribal lands, and 77% reported that they are enrolled members of their Tribe, Pueblo, or Nation.  Results were weighted to the Current Population Survey, and the nominal margin‐of‐error for the poll is 5.6%.

Recognition of Partners: Survey Development and Research: Southwest Women’s Law Center, Forward Together, and Latino Decisions. Part 1 of this research on rural New Mexico included the work of Bold Futures. Contributing Organizations: Indigenous Lifeways and Tewa Women United. Compilation and Analysis: Latino Decisions. Additional national data analysis provided by Forward Together.

To read the full Topline results for this survey please click here.

For news reports on this work, please see this summary on Colorlines and this summary on NMPoliticalReport.