The feds gave a former White House official $3 million to supply masks to Navajo Hospitals. Some may not work.

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox. A former White House aide won a $3 million federal contract to supply respirator masks to Navajo Nation hospitals in New Mexico and Arizona 11 days after he created a company to sell personal protective equipment in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Zach Fuentes, President Donald Trump’s former deputy chief of staff, secured the deal with the Indian Health Service with limited competitive bidding and no prior federal contracting experience. The IHS told ProPublica it has found that 247,000 of the masks delivered by Fuentes’ company — at a cost of roughly $800,000 — may be unsuitable for medical use.

An abortion fund for Native people is more than just a fund

A grassroots organization raises money for an abortion fund entirely for Indigenous people while also raising awareness. An Albuquerque film screening that served as a fundraiser for Indigenous Women Rising raised $300 late last month. The money goes to support an abortion fund for Native people in the U.S. and Canada. Since the beginning of this year alone, the IWR abortion fund has helped 18 people get an abortion. The fund can help with the cost of the abortion itself.

Women’s groups gather on Indigenous women’s issues

Angel Charley, acting co-executive director of the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native American Women, gave a siren call for Indigenous issues Sunday during a meeting of women’s groups. Charley was the keynote speaker for the New Mexico American Association of University Women Chapter (AAUW), the League of Women Voters and the National Organization for Women over the weekend in Santa Fe in advance of the organizations’ lobbying efforts Monday at the Roundhouse rotunda. Pamelya Herndon, chair of the Public Policy Committee for AAUW, said she chose Charley as speaker because she had never seen a collaboration between the Indigenous group and the AAUW and she thought now was a good time to start one. “We should be working together,” Herndon said. “This is how to move into the Year of the Woman.”

The year 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment, which granted women the right to vote.

Contraception access a problem for those in need

Rural, communities of color and low-income New Mexicans in some areas of the state face greater barriers when deciding if, how and when to become parents. According to Power to Decide, a Washington D.C. based reproductive rights organization, 134,850 women between the ages of 13 and 44 live in a contraceptive desert in New Mexico.  The nonprofit defines a contraceptive desert as a place where women lack reasonable access in their counties to a health center that offers the full range of contraceptive methods. Rachel Fey, director of public policy for Power to Decide, told NM Political Report this is important because women usually change contraceptive methods during their reproductive years. “People have the response, ‘What’s the problem? Go buy condoms. It’s no big deal.’ But it doesn’t work for everyone.

Access to abortion limited in NM

When New Mexico women are in a crisis and need to terminate a pregnancy, all too often they must drive hundreds of miles to reach a clinic that provides abortion. Clinics that provide abortions are only located in or around the three largest cities in New Mexico. While some obstetric and gynecological doctors as well as some general practitioners will perform an abortion privately, the vast majority of abortions are provided in specific clinics, Dr. Eve Espey, chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, told NM Political Report. 

When women seek an abortion, they are often in a time of crisis, she said. With more than one million women living in New Mexico, such limited resources for abortion services impacts a significant portion of women who are child-bearing age in the state. The problem disproportionately affects low-income women, rural women and women of color, Espey said.