September 1, 2020

Reproductive health care poll finds support among Native Americans in state

A poll taken earlier this year showed that 81 percent of Native Americans around the state believe that women deserve to make their own decisions about reproductive health care without government interference.

Two nonprofit organizations, Southwest Women’s Law Center and Forward Together, commissioned the poll last spring and the poll results will be released later this fall. Latino Decisions conducted the poll. New Mexico Political Report obtained an unreleased poll summary.

Both Forward Together and Southwest Women’s Law Center said giving Native Americans the opportunity to voice their opinions on reproductive health care is important because some state legislators say that Indigenous people are against abortion.

“One of the things I’ve noticed in our state, Native American women are not in the discussions regarding what they think about reproductive health or what they need with reproductive health,” Terrelene Massey, of the Navajo Nation and executive director of Southwest Women Law Center, said.

Adriann Barboa, New Mexico policy director for Forward Together, said it was important to hear from Native Americans because legislators use the demographic group “as a wedge” when reproductive health care bills come up for a vote.

Former state senate candidate Noreen Kelly, who is Diné (Navajo Nation), who was not involved in the poll but said she lives in Gallup, has talked to medicine people and both men and women who are Navajo and said  she sees a lot of support for reproductive care, including both contraception and abortion.

Massey said Native Americans are “just like any group of people.”

“We have conservative people, we have more progressive people and we have those in the middle,” she said. “There’s not just one viewpoint.” 

The poll found that 72 percent of Native Americans within the state feel that they can hold their own moral views about abortion and still trust a woman and her family to make this decision for themselves.

The polling memo reported that one in five Native American women in New Mexico have had an abortion themselves.

Massey pointed to the fact that 81 percent of Native Americans in the state say that women and families deserve to make their own health care decisions without government interference when talking about state legislators who say that Native Americans as a group are against abortion.

“I knew that wasn’t the case,” she said.

The poll captured the opinions of both men and women. Latino Decisions randomly interviewed 302 Native Americans across the state, 46 percent of them male, 52 percent female and 2 percent who identify as nonbinary.

Additional findings include that 33 percent of Native American women in New Mexico have been the victim of sexual assault or sexual violence. Of that 33 percent, 60 percent said they realized more reproductive health care is needed in New Mexico.

The poll also showed the lack of access Native Americans face on tribal and pueblo lands or rural areas – 10 percent of those polled said there is a doctor, hospital or clinic in their community that can provide abortion.

Clinics that provide abortions exist in the three major cities of New Mexico – Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Doña Ana County near Texas. This makes access a significant problem for people who live in rural areas and on tribal land or reservations, according to reproductive advocates.

Latino Decisions conducted the poll between March 24 and April 7 and completed 158 interviews over both landline and cell phone. The other 144 interviews were web-based. Nearly half of the sample – 47 percent – live on reservation or tribal land and 77 reported they are enrolled members of their tribe, pueblo or nation. The margin of error is 5.6 percent.

This story has been updated.