For approximately ten years, pregnant women of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe have made the so-called "hell ride," an over 90-mile trek to St. Mary's Healthcare Center in Pierre, South Dakota whenever they are ready to give birth. The lucky ones make the journey strapped to a gurney in the back of an ambulance; the others have to find private transportation, no easy task on the reservation, where the cars are limited and the poverty severe. A higher than average number women choose — or are coerced by doctors — to induce labor, in an attempt to avoid the hell ride altogether.
It seems that the reservation and its 14,200 residents have been without obstetrical facilities since 2001. The overall situation on the reservation is so bad that Fordham law school professor Chi Mgbako compared it to that of women in developing nations.
Supposedly, a hospital and birthing center have been in the works for the reservation for a decade. However, when the ACLU asked the Indian Health Service (IHS) to reveal the plans for the project, they refused. Last fall, the ACLU sued under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Since then, only a few documents have been released to them.
The situation for the women of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe is unacceptable. They deserve access to comprehensive reproductive health care. Ask the IHS to turn over all documentation relating to the proposed hospital.
Photo credit: striatic