HHS Promoting 'Long-Acting' Contraception, 'Sterilization' in Dwindling Navajo Nation

September 27, 2013 - 4:13 PM


Navaho woman

Navajo woman on tribal land in Tonalea, Ariz.(AP photo)

(CNSNews.com) - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will spend $450,000 in Fiscal Year 2014 on grants to groups that will provide birth control--including "long acting" contraceptives and "sterilization"--in the Navajo Nation’s tribal lands, even though U.S. Census data shows the population there declined nearly 4 percent between 2000 and 2010.

Priority will be given to Native American "individuals from low-income families."

“Successful applicants will include information in the application that clearly identifies the clinical services provided, including the specific methods of contraception to be offered at the grantee and/or sub-recipient sites,” said the department’s solicitation for proposals to receive this grant money.

“In addition to program priorities,” said the HHS, “the following key issues have implications for Title X services projects, and should be considered in developing the project plan: 1. Efficiency and effectiveness in program management and operations; 2. Patient access to a broad range of contraceptive options, including long acting reversible contraceptives (LARC), other pharmaceuticals, and laboratory tests.”

Under Title X, sterilizations can be offered in federally funded "family planning" programs on mentally competent individuals over 21 years of age who sign a document giving their "informed consent" at least 30 days but not more than 180 days before the procedure is performed. (See Title X.pdf)

The Navajo Nation’s population decreased 3.9 percent, from 180,462 individuals in 2000 to 173,667 in 2010, according to the “Demographic Analysis of the Navajo Nation, 2010 Census data and 2010 American Survey Estimates."

The demographic analysis, which was done by the Arizona Rural Policy Institute at Northern Arizona University and funded in part by the U.S. Dept. of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, also found that more than half of Navajos living on tribal lands are between 18 and 64 years of age. Children under 19 make up 37.4 percent of all tribal members, whose average family size is 4.1 persons with a median household income of $26,232.

CNSNews.com contacted tribal president Ben Shelly’s office in Arizona and the Navajo Nation’s Washington office to ask whether preventing births in a declining population is a good long-term strategy for the tribe, but the calls were not returned. Native Americans of all tribes make up just 1.7 percent of the total U.S. population, according to 2010 census data.

The Navajo Nation, whose territory was expanded several times between 1868 and 1934, is a self-governing, semi-autonomous region covering 27,425 square miles in Arizona, Utah and New Mexico, including Monument Valley. It is the largest Native American jurisdiction in the U.S.