No Plan B for Plan B
“Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples shall be separated from your bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger” -Genesis 25:23
In this week’s Torah portion, we read about “two nations” – in the form of two brothers, Jacob and Esau – warring for the same things. They both want the same fatherly blessing. They both vie for the same motherly attention. They both hope to conquer the same lands. We read about strategies for dealing with this rivalry: deception, trickery, flight.
Such a bi-national conflict is not foreign to those of us living in contemporary North America. Though the United States is considered to be the “melting pot” of cultures, it has historically severely mistreated the “nations,” the people, who were here before us. Native Americans in the U.S. are disproportionately impoverished and remain shut out by key legislation aimed at solving this inequality.
Moreover, the “womb” being an epicenter of such a conflict resonates today. In America, any woman 17 or older can purchase emergency contraception over the counter at their local pharmacy. The Indian Health Service, however, does not have retail pharmacies, so Native American women must visit a clinic, urgent care facility or emergency room in order to receive an emergency contraception prescription that is given to them on site. If a woman cannot wait for this long and burdensome process to play out, she has to drive to a non-IHS pharmacy, which is not only potentially very far but also only offers the necessary medication at full price, which is often too costly for these women.
In May, Indian Health Service’s chief medical officer Susan Karol declared that her agency was in the process of constructing a policy that would allow pharmacies to give Plan B directly to patients. However, such a policy has yet to be announced; in the meantime, these women are left with what can at best be described as patchwork care.
Such a stark reality is all the more significant given the high rates of abuse and rape within the Native American community. According to one study, more than 1 in 3 Native American women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes, and due to loopholes in the enforcement of the current Violence Against Women Act, in only 13% of sexual assault cases reported by American Indian nationwide is an arrest made.
In Genesis 33, Jacob and Esau meet again years later, and are able to finally settle their differences. The brothers offer one another forgiveness, and give one another tokens of their newfound respect. It is in the midst of this process that Jacob receives the name Israel from God. What can we learn from this? That the nation of Israel emerges from a place of peace-making and reconciliation. And that it is our job to confront the contemporary versions of this conflict playing out in our very country, and to help stand up for these injustices.
Image originally found here