May 19, 2023

Indigenous Women Rising expands services to help empower Native people


Indigenous Women Rising, a grassroots group known for its abortion fund for Indigenous people, is expanding its services.

IWR has long provided support to Native individuals who are birthing through a midwifery program alongside its abortion fund. But the organization’s new Emergence Fund will enable the group to expand its reach to Native birthing families across the country, Justin Lorenzo  (Laguna Pueblo), midwifery fund director, said. 

That will make IWR’s birthing program operate more in tandem with its abortion fund, which has offered support to Native individuals seeking abortion across the U.S. for some time. 

Lorenzo said the Emergence Fund will cover midwifery care and doula care and will also help with other needed resources, such as diapers, breastfeeding and other birthing supplies.

Department of Health spokesman David Morgan told NM Political Report via email that Medicaid pays for midwifery care and is “working on implementing a doula coverage benefit.”

“But, that is not in place, yet,” Morgan said.

But, Lorenzo said that while the state’s Medicaid program covers midwifery, not all clinics in the state accept Medicaid.

“That discourages some Native people from finding it,” Lorenzo said.

The cost of giving birth can vary depending on the state, whether the individual has insurance and what type of birth the individual has, but in general, it adds up to thousands of dollars. 

So spending extra money on a doula might seem prohibitive for some. But doulas can provide significant benefits both before birth, during delivery and after birth, advocates have said.

Lorenzo said that, from what he’s seen, doula care can cost anywhere from $300 to $1,000.   

Lorenzo said the program is getting set up as a program and will be fully ready in June. While IWR has announced the fund, it hasn’t officially launched and won’t be completely ready until then, but Lorenzo said the group has already heard from patients seeking help.

The fund will give Native families more options, he said. He said that’s important, given the effects of colonialism and genocide that Native families have experienced for centuries.

“It’s another way to reclaim their options and what they feel they can achieve as far as birthing options. Involuntary sterilizations of [Native] women were not so long ago. This gives them the power to tell their own birthing story,” Lorenzo said.

He said that for Native families to “be able to tell their own birthing story” is “a pretty big issue.”

“It gives them the freedom to have their own story; have support for it; and have a security blanket to know they have support for whatever option they chose,” Lorenzo said.

Jennifer Lim, the communications and media director for IWR, said the Emergence Fund is important because it empowers Native individuals to reclaim their own birthing story.

“That story is more powerful than people understand. That opportunity has been removed for centuries,” Lim said.

She said the fund will help “give that space back to folks.”

“That is monumental,” Lim said.

Lorenzo said that a fund to help Indigenous people take back their power and tell their own birthing stories fits perfectly alongside an abortion fund.

“It’s all about women’s right for reproductive freedom,” he said. “That includes birthing, too.”

He added that many individuals who seek abortion already have children.

The fund “is a way to support our community and not be biased and not judgmental and have the full range of options,” he said.