Staying comfortably alive is, unfortunately, much harder as a woman than you’d think. Collateral damage of war, terrible domestic violence, and a surprisingly insidious gap in medical care — and rights. Most medical knowledge we have is based on research on male bodies. Knowledge and effective treatments for women’s health conditions and diseases are shockingly in short supply. Women are regarded as more “emotional” than men, dismissed as “hormonal” when concerned about alarming physical symptoms, and are often dismissed in a way that makes the “hysteria” diagnoses of bygone days seem not that far away after all. Black women and other women of color are disproportionately affected. Heavier women are told to lose weight as a catch all solution to every ill. Pregnancies are more dangerous in the U.S. than any first world country has a right to be. And a whole host of reproductive health concerns have been made violently worse by the recent Supreme Court ruling that struck down Roe v. Wade. Abortion access is imperiled in much of the country. Safe and easy medical treatments for other reproductive issues will be harder to receive due to the ban of practices deemed to close to those used for abortion. In short, women’s health care in the United States is a travesty. It is an environment that is negligent at best — and malevolently hostile at worst — towards female bodies.
A smattering of recent news:
According to the 2021 Global Women’s Health Index, not only did women’s health get worse worldwide in 2021, the United States was ranked 23rd in the world. Twenty third. We are one of the richest countries in the world, but we don’t even crack the top 20 for women’s healthcare.
Recent reporting in the New York Times brought to the forefront how very little we actually know about an organ possessed by approximately half the world’s population: the clitoris. Virtually no one is studying it. Most medical literature ignores it completely. Surgeries and procedures regarded as routine and straightforward have documented injuries to the organ as a result of anatomical ignorance. And even though regular examinations are recommended, most providers “neither know how to examine nor feel comfortable examining the clitoris.”
Abortion bans in the 100 days since Roe V. Wade was struck down by the Supreme Court have resulted in incredible harm to women’s healthcare, including but also well beyond abortion procedures themselves. “Abortion bans have impacted healthcare beyond reproductive care, keeping Americans in some states from obtaining treatments for conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and even cancer because the medications can be used to induce a miscarriage.”1 Women in the middle of life-threatening medical emergencies are sitting and waiting until legal teams, not doctors, decide if their lives are threatened “enough” to provide care.2 Other very basic, safe medical procedures that utilize similar methodologies or medications as abortions are in serious jeopardy due to the potential legal ramifications for the providers. A miscarriage has become a prosecutable crime. As Jia Tolentino pointedly explains, “We’re not going back to the time before Roe. We’re going somewhere worse.”
What can we do?
PlannedParenthood.org remains a steadfast resource for women’s healthcare, including issues related to menstruation, endometriosis, UTIs, PCOS, pregnancy, contraception, and more.
Abortionfunds.org lists abortion funds in every state if you’d like to donate, as well as links to resources to help find a clinic near you or get more information about safe, effective abortion pills.
California Black Women’s Health Project provides a variety of resources for Black women and girls, including mental health, aging, and sexual empowerment.
National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center advocates for policies, offers resources, and holds events and trainings in support of the mental and physical health of indigenous women in the US, extending even to housing instability and gender-based violence.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has excellent advice to keep your digital privacy safe, whether you are seeking an abortion or a provider of abortion or healthcare support. What was benign data can now potentially be used as criminal evidence, so know your digital rights and protect yourself accordingly.
We are in this together. Let’s do all we can to close the gap in our rights to healthcare and bodily autonomy. Women’s rights are human rights.