By: Kelsey Duke
The investigation led for stricter regulations surrounding the IHS and their practices but for many women it was already too late. Several studies have been conducted on the issue and many report that some where between 25 and 50 percent of Native American women were sterilized by the IHS from 1970 to 1976 (Lawrence). The birth rate for Indian women fell at a rate seven times greater than that of white women between 1970 and 1980 (Ralstin-Lewis). Many people share the belief that this was a systematic attack on Native women in an effort to reduce the Native population, an effort that many consider to be genocide.
The sterilizations of these women had devastating effects beyond just the overall population reduction. Many of the women found their marriages ending in divorce. Friendships and families were also torn apart while the entire Indian community experienced higher rates of marital problems, drug and alcohol abuse, psychological difficulties, shame, and guilt (Lawrence). The tribal communities also suffered as a result of the mass sterilization. Losing the ability to reproduce caused the tribes to lose much of their political power in tribal councils due to the lessened population count. Many Indian leaders also claim that the tribe’s economic base and independence were greatly affected by the sterilizations. In 1976, the Indian Health Care Improvement Act was passed by Congress, giving the Native American tribes the ability to manage their own health service programs (Lawrence).