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Access to Women-Specific Health Care Should Not Be a Partisan Issue

In 1973, the Supreme Court of the United States decided that women have the right to privacy in deciding on medical procedures, including abortions. Roe vs. Wade was a landmark case because it was the first time in the US that the courts stated that women had the final say over their bodies.

This concept is referred to as bodily autonomy and states that people have the right to decide what happens to their bodies. It’s why people have to sign up for organ donation, and why The Red Cross can’t force you to donate blood. It’s a good thing to have! 1973 was the first time women became full beneficiaries of the law in the same way men are.

However, it hasn’t stayed that way. Abortion, birth control, and even access to women-specific providers have continued to be a battle. Abortion is a hot-button topic because it’s seen as an extreme partisan issue, and both sides can have difficulty changing positions to see the occasional validity of the other. The others, however, shouldn’t be an issue.


Birth Control and Medicine Fraud

A surprising number of people are against birth control because they feel that the only kind of birth control people need is abstinence. But the prevention of pregnancy is not the only thing that birth control does for women.

It also helps with a huge variety of other health conditions like regulating and lightening periods, which can be lifesaving for women who become anemic during their periods. It can help migraines and acne, ease endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and it even lowers the risk of some cancers!  Birth control can be the difference between someone being able to function normally and being sick or needing disability.

The pain associated with menstruation is nothing new, but medical treatment for it is. Women’s pain has been taken less seriously throughout history when compared to men. Proper care for some of these debilitating, women-specific problems has been delayed because they only affect women. Birth control has also been controlled by men, especially before any effective medications existed. Back pain is not treated as it used to be, now there is the best inversion table that people can have at home to relief the pain.

Even today, some doctors have no qualms about putting profits ahead of their female patients, especially surrounding issues like birth control. As recently as 2015, a California doctor was charged with inserting cheaper, non-government approved intrauterine devices into numerous female patients between 2008 and 2012, but billed them and their insurance companies as if he had used the device approved by the FDA. This is pharmaceutical fraud, and it is a serious crime. Cases like this can result in serious health complications in men and women alike, and it is unfortunate that this doctor and others like him still take the reproductive health and pain of women so lightly.


Access to Care

Low-income women, especially those who may be struggling to keep their health insurance have limited options. A GP or family doctor is often not trained to do more than a yearly exam, so many women choose Planned Parenthood. Some women pay more to go, some pay nothing, but everyone can be seen. Planned Parenthood is responsible for finding breast cancer, ovarian cancer, prescribing birth control pills to prevent pregnancy, and monitoring active pregnancies.

When women don’t have access to this very particular kind of care, things can go sideways. That’s why threats to defund Planned Parenthood are so significant. Women then have to rely either on their general practitioner, or they have to go to the ER or a clinic. The doctors at the hospital and clinic will not be pleased to have to deal with tasks that Planned Parenthood could be taking care of when actual emergencies need to be addressed, and it ends up being a drain on taxpayers.

However, there are also issues with going to your GP for birth control. Because they don’t specialize in it, they might be unfamiliar with a lot of the different kinds, brands and uses. An IUD is as effective as the pill but comes with different risks and benefits. Mirena, for example, has faced multiple lawsuits over side effects like excessive pain and perforation of the uterus. A GP may not be familiar enough with the differences to warn you about the side effects.


What Can Be Done

With the combined effects of women being taken advantage of, having their symptoms taken less seriously, and the political climate threatening access to care, you have the recipe for a maelstrom.

There is still a push at the state level to make birth control cheaper and more accessible. Currently, 28 states have some kind of “contraceptive equity” law in place that aims to do just that. Several other states are also beginning to consider contraceptive equity bills. With the current political climate at the federal level, it may be smart to read up on what’s going on in your own state and see how you can get involved.

There are also many organizations that work toward furthering the progress of the women’s health care movement. Visit the websites for Planned Parenthood, the National Organization for Women or one of the many other movements fighting for equality for all to see how you can make a difference.

And, as discussed, this advice shouldn’t just be of interest to women and liberals. Access to women-specific health care affects us all, male or female, Republican or Democrat. Lack of access to female-specific care is actually highly detrimental to men and women alike. Issues related to sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies, and debilitating pain impact all of us. Promoting women’s health care isn’t partisan. It’s humanist.

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Kate Harveston is originally from Williamsport, PA and holds a bachelor's degree in English. She enjoys writing about health and social justice issues. When she isn't writing, she can usually be found curled up reading dystopian fiction or hiking and searching for inspiration. If you like her writing, follow her blog, So Well, So Woman.

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30 thoughts on “Access to Women-Specific Health Care Should Not Be a Partisan Issue

  1. This is a well-thought out post, so thanks for writing it. I will say that because it touches on abortion (even though your main argument isn’t really about abortion but about other things), you may get some outsized aggressive comments. Just know that the vast majority of readers here appreciate your willingness to put your views forward.

    While I myself have complicated views on the abortion question, I’ll say that I wholeheartedly agree with the following from your post:

    Abortion is a hot-button topic because it’s seen as an extreme partisan issue, and both sides can have difficulty changing positions to see the occasional validity of the other. The others [e.g., birth control and access to women’s health care], however, shouldn’t be an issue.

    Again, thanks for writing this.

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    • Thanks, Gabriel! It’s definitely a touchy topic that deserves a certain level of sensitivity, so I chose to focus more on contraceptive care and general health care issues. Glad to know you enjoyed. Thanks for reading :)

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  2. Kate,
    So, um, talking about heavy periods as being lifethreatening? Birthcontrol pills are not the recommended treatment for those heavy periods. Apparently, the majority of those are treated by hysterectomies.

    The evidence for “the pill stops ovarian cancer” is a lot stronger.

    If you were truly writing a message to conservatives, I’d have expected the words Demographic Armageddon to show up in here. This doesn’t sound like you are doing anything more than preaching to the choir. I may agree with you, but you aren’t making much of a case for “Why Poor Women who have Lots of Babies should get subsidized health care while pregnant, again.” (and yes, I hate to be crude, but people are pushing the right’s buttons on this subject, so we’re WAY out of rational thought).

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  3. When I read this

    A surprising number of people are against birth control because they feel that the only kind of birth control people need is abstinence.

    I was reminded of a study I once read showing that sex with a regular partner was worth the equivalent of $50,000 a year in terms of happiness and life satisfaction. Lo and behold, in today’s Linky Friday, linked to this, which reminds us that damage to a woman’s ability to have and enjoy sex is basically something courts will award money for.

    There’s also pieces like this

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  4. Hormone supplements that are used for purposes other than birth control shouldn’t be called “birth control”. It just confuses the issue. I don’t think anyone objects to hormone supplements per se. I don’t think anyone objects to government compelling people to pay for hormone supplements any more than they object to government compelling people to pay for any medical care. So this seems like a red herring.

    As for medical fraud, it’s already illegal. Why single it out in an article about women’s health care? Fake tetanus shots, for example, would be a bad thing for men and women. I don’t see why it’s included in this article.

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  5. There is a *HUGE* tension between “we all have responsibilities to each other” and “I have a right to privacy!”

    “You have to do this thing!”
    “I need more details.”
    “No you don’t! It’s none of your business!”
    “Okay, fine. It’s none of my business.”
    “But you still have to do this thing!”

    And then it’s going to turn into a quest for more details and ’round and ’round we go.

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    • Why is it that America is the only major First World nation to have this issue then, specifically with abortion and even less controversial aspects of women’s health care? I mean, it’s not like other countries have people who dislike taxes that pay for things they don’t like. You could probably get even a left-leaning Swede, German, Italian, and Englishman all winded up on something they have to pay taxes for they don’t understand.

      Yet, there’s none of this supposed right to privacy vs. responsibility thing in those countries. It’s almost like there’s an actual other reason for this, not what you want to tell yourself is the reason.

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  6. Couple of things:

    “bodily autonomy” Sorry, neither women or men have it. You can’t sell one of your kidneys can you? Nope. You got as much as men do, just not 100%.

    Birth control: I’d be interested in seeing how many people object to BC on it’s face or “paying for others to have it”. I think you’d find the latter more than the former. But hey, why don’t we get smart and just make all BC OTC, at least the one that don’t require manual insertion?

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  7. First, I second, or third,(*) the comments that this is a very well written post.

    But I (a man), would have gone further. There shouldn’t need to be any justifications around birth control. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad as a treatment to ovarian cancer or anything.

    Birth control (male and female) is an integral part of a human’s autonomy. Those that want to restrict (female) birth control in the name of morality are diminishing the agency and worthiness of women. Women, in their mind, are not -or should not- be able to make their own decisions. Birth control gives women other options in life beyond wife and mother. Options, for women, are a bad thing for society, opponents of birth control believe.

    I have no problem with women choosing to become housewives and mothers, though I hope that they do so:

    (a) after careful consideration that there are other options
    (b) with the tools, knowledge, and ability to sustain themselves, and their children, if, in the future, the housewife and mother plan goes awry

    But i’m strongly against putting blocks on the ability of women to, autonomously, chose a different path

    (*) See what I did there? First, second, third. Ha!

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  8. If this wonderful work PP is doing was so wonderful, they could separate it from the part of the organization which is not.
    I have no issue donating to a no-kill animal shelter, but if that shelter has a stated policy of working toward the mass incarceration of minority peoples, I am probably going to consider them much differently than other no-kill shelters.

    It is the specific desire to push people’s buttons which makes PP such a hot-button issue.
    They could exist quite well without such a desire.

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    • In theory, I agree with you

      It is the specific desire to push people’s buttons which makes PP such a hot-button issue.

      In practice, I don’t know how far backwards PP should bend to avoid pushing some people’s buttons.

      PP already separates the funding for the good services from the funding for the bad ones. Buttoned up people say that, because money is fungible, if the government gives money to fund PP’s mammogram program, then PP can divert money, originally earmarked for mammograms, into abortions.

      Easy, might say. PP should get completely out of the abortion business, and then all will be peachy, and Buttoned Up People will themselves throw fundraisers for PP’s other programs. But I have my doubts.

      If a pregnant woman comes into. PP clinic looking for an abortion, could PP, under the “not pushing buttons” policy, refer her to another provider? Could they even mention abortion as an alternative? Or is that pushing people’s buttons too?

      And we are back to where a medical discussion between a woman and her doctor becomes a political issue.

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    • Will,
      We thank you for signing up to deliberately kill dogs.
      That’s the case with the no-kill animal shelter that my friend was running, at any rate.
      It made the number of dogs killed skyrocket. (of course, in the county kill shelter).
      Naturally, it was being run for the cats.

      PP runs like a military bootcamp. They’re one of only about three charities I like. If they spend 1% of their money on abortions for people who want them? Well, they’ve well earned that money by not wasting our tax dollars.

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  9. I see a lot of essays like this and they are usually by people on my side. The essay is always along the line of X should not be a partisan issue.

    I wonder if this is a problem in Left politics in that our ideal state is to have things be non-partisan or non-political but just granted without fight or disagreement.

    We need to figure out why these things are partisan issues and how to fight.

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    • These essays are kind of weird when you think about it. One would think that the side that believes that the personal is political and in identity politics would understand that everything is a partisan political issue.

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    • We need to figure out why these things are partisan issues…

      Because too many groups need some way to justify their existence.

      Think of all the groups which benefit from this issue, and who loses if it just goes away. The Pro-Life groups no longer have jobs. The politicians who claim that’s why they’re politicians need something else. The Catholic Church needs a true enemy to rally the troops against even if they have make one.

      Abortion access is a wonderful issue from this point of view. It doesn’t go away, the Pro-Choicers don’t kill people so your personal life isn’t on the line, etc.

      There is no compromise that could make it go away because too many people would lose their jobs if there were peace here.

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