Fighting for Health Care, Reproductive Justice, and a Strong FDA

Taken from the January/February 2017 issue of The Women's Health Activist Newsletter.

Women were protected from dangerous products (like metal-on-metal hip implants) and Federal agencies ensured that women were included in biomedical research. And, 129 members of Congress co-sponsored legislation to end restrictions on abortion care, a key step towards eliminating the Hyde Amendment.

These gains are the result of savvy organizing, including building alliances across race, class, and many other differences. To achieve them, the health justice movement had to stop being afraid of abortion, and embrace women’s health activists. Mainstream reproductive health organizations had to listen to, and accept, the leadership of the reproductive justice movement, led by women of color organizations. Women’s health activists had to deepen our understanding of the social determinants of health and become vocal supporters of living wage laws.

In 2017, Republicans will control both Congress and the White House, and are determined to roll back our movements’ gains. Congressional leaders promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act, removing tax credits that helped millions of women afford health insurance. They plan to undo Medicaid expansion—putting 14 million people in jeopardy of losing coverage completely. And, they will allow states to take coverage away from even more people in traditional Medicaid, by no longer covering pregnant women and children, and instituting lifetime limits and waiting lists for coverage. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has even proposed turning Medicare into a voucher program, jeopardizing coverage for millions of seniors and people with disabilities.

Congress isn’t the only place attacking our gains. Dr. Tom Price, who has been nominated as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, opposes contraceptive coverage regulations—regulations he’ll have the power to revoke, if he’s confirmed. President-Elect Trump also has the power to nominate new leaders of the FDA, NIH, and CDC—agencies we rely upon to research important women’s health questions, ensure that drugs and devices are safe and effective, and respond to public health emergencies. We don’t yet know who Trump has in mind for these positions, but we’re worried. One of Big Pharma’s key allies has been appointed to the HHS transition team, sending a troubling signal.

This is a dangerous time for women’s health. Consumer protections, effective drugs and devices, affordable health care, insurance coverage for women’s health needs, family planning funding—all are at risk. This is also a dangerous time for the many people and communities targeted by President-Elect Trump and his supporters. People of color, LGTBQ folks, people with disabilities, immigrants, Muslims...members of these communities are our allies, and are essential parts of the women’s health movements. We are committed to defending health care, reproductive justice, and the FDA, and to maintaining the interconnected network of alliances that helped us make important gains in recent years.

Next year won’t be a fun year, and our work won’t be easy, but we’re committed to standing up for women’s health. Thank you for being part of the community, and for being with us in this important fight.