We Need More Congresswomen in the Fight for Women’s Health
Updated: Aug 20, 2020
Healthcare is consistently a major topic of issue in any election. It is debated over and over. Widely different plans are put forth. It is on the top of everyone’s mind because of how crucial access to affordable and quality healthcare is for our nation. Funding for research and treatment of diseases and conditions gets put into bills for each fiscal year.
That being said, oftentimes women’s health issues are less funded or ignored. This is certainly the case with endometriosis. This condition, which can cause incredible pain and infertility, is one of the least funded diseases and conditions by the National Institutes of Health (1).
Back in March of this year, which feels like years ago, freshman Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer (IA-01) spoke out about her battle with endometriosis on the House Floor. She felt uniquely positioned to bring attention to this condition because of her direct experience with it. Representative Finkenauer launched the first House Endometriosis Caucus on March 5, 2020 in an effort to “make sure endometriosis gets the attention and funding that it demands.” It seems worth mentioning that the House Endometriosis Caucus launched with twenty-eight original members, the majority of whom are Democratic women. Though Finkenauer’s co-chair is a Republican woman representing Puerto Rico, each of the other twenty-six members - seven men and nineteen women - is a Democrat (2).
This creation highlights what we already know: The best political advocates for women’s issues (like women’s healthcare) are women politicians. There are so many health problems unique to women; it should be clear that the best people to fight for a better understanding of these issues are going to be women. The power behind this Caucus shows us that Democratic women are stepping up for women around the country and prioritizing women's health. As Dr. Tamer Seckin, the co-founder of the Endometriosis Foundation of America said about Representative Finkenauer, “women with endometriosis needed a powerful voice on Capitol Hill and today they got it" (3).
”It doesn’t make me weak that I have this. In fact, I hope folks see that, especially women who do have it or are people who love the women who have it, realize that they are strong as hell” (4).
The lack of understanding about the condition and its symptoms is dangerous for women. Most women do not know that their symptoms could be the marker of a larger condition so they accept the severe pain as “normal.” Further education for women is needed to attack this. Endometriosis impacts 1 in 10 women worldwide and at least 7 million women in the US. Because it is one of the least funded conditions, there is a major lack of treatment options and general knowledge. On average, it takes 7.5 years for a woman suffering with endometriosis to be diagnosed with the condition (5). Additionally, each week, on average, women with endometriosis will lose 6 hours of productivity at work and 5 hours of productivity at home. Endometriosis is estimated to cost the US over $78 billion each year in medical costs and work productivity. In addition to harming women every day, this condition is a huge economic burden (6).
Luckily for all women, Congresswoman Finkenauer kept her March promise to increase awareness and research funding for this common, yet widely unknown, condition. Two weeks ago, on July 29, the US House of Representatives passed the Appropriations Act of 2021 with an amendment that doubled the amount of funding for endometriosis research - from $13 million to $26 million (7). This significant increase in research funding and awareness is sure to bring the country closer to understanding endometriosis and how to best treat it. Because right now, there is no known cause and no cure.
These are the Democratic women running for reelection to the House of Representatives this November who joined Representative Finkenauer in her creation of the Endometriosis Caucus in support of all women’s health: Cindy Axne (IA), Nanette Barragán (CA), Cheri Bustos (IL), Sharice Davids (KS), Rosa DeLauro (CT), Veronica Escobar (TX), Lois Frankel (FL), Kendra Horn (OK), Chrissy Houlahan (PA), Susie Lee (NV), Grace Meng (NY), Debbie Muscarsel-Powell (FL), Ayanna Pressley (MA), Kathleen Rice (NY), Mary Gay Scanlon (PA), Haley Stevens (MI), Xochitl Torres Small (NM), and Lauren Underwood (IL). There is support for increasing awareness and funding for endometriosis from women across the country because this condition impacts so many women - regardless of zip code.
Along with supporting increased funding for research about endometriosis, these Democratic leaders also support Planned Parenthood, which provides screening, diagnosis, and treatment options for endometriosis. This is yet another one of many services Planned Parenthood provides to all women across the nation. These members of Congress value women's health and the organizations doing the work to provide accessible, wide-ranging, medical care to women. If you want to show off all the incredible services Planned Parenthood offers on a tote bag (and donate money) check out my favorite one here.
Tote by: Power and Light Press (Women in the US)
Funding and protecting Planned Parenthood combined with fighting for more funding and research for women's diseases and conditions is a necessary part of furthering women’s rights and health. Reelecting these women this November will ensure that our voices are represented in conversations and policymaking. I feel confident that these Congresswomen will continue to devote energy into making this country a more equitable place for women across every sector, especially in healthcare.