Women Need Access…and More

Ever hear that old joke?  One friend asks another “How was the continental breakfast at the hotel?” The friend replies, ‘It was awful. The coffee was cold, the pastry was stale, and the juice was sour. And there wasn’t enough of it!”

Feminist health activists are a bit like the hotel customer who not only wanted there to be enough food, but also for it to taste good. We want more health care — by which we mean we want everyone who needs health care to have access. And, we want better health care — by which we mean safer treatments, more answers about conditions that trouble women, and clinicians who have time to get to know us as well as they know the science.

This issue of the Women’s Health Activist will arrive in your mailboxes around the third anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which was signed into law on March 23, 2010. While the law is far from perfect, the ACA is expanding access to health care for millions of women. Young women who can’t find or afford insurance on their own can get coverage through their parents, something that wasn’t possible in most states before the ACA. Millions of women are finding that their insurance is now a much better deal, because it is now required to cover women’s preventive services — like breast-feeding supplies and contraceptives — without any additional fees. Women who are Medicare beneficiaries are saving money on their prescription drugs.

These are some of the reasons why we’re celebrating the anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, even while we’re campaigning to address and fix some of the ACA’s problems, like denying coverage to legal immigrants and restricting coverage of abortion care.

Meanwhile, we’re also continuing to work on the quality of health care. For this issue, we invited articles from seasoned activists who challenge us to think critically about the medical and social aspects of various aspects of women’s health.

Amy Laskowske writes movingly about the challenges she faced as a young athlete, and Cameron Hartofelis and Anu Gomez explore the women’s health needs of transmen.

Rebecca Spence writes about the difficulty some pregnant women encounter when they try to pursue childbirth that deviates from the unnecessarily strict rules governing the kind of birth women can have and where they can have it. In 1972, Doris Haire, one of NWHN’s very first board members, published a sweeping analysis of this problem entitled, The Cultural Warping of Childbirth. Spence’s article addresses the current-day cultural imposition of standards that aren’t based in science, and poses some thought-provoking questions about how to move forward.

In Keeping the Gold in the Golden Years, former NWHN board member Judy Costlow tells us how aging healthfully requires more than getting specific tests or taking specific pills. Finally, the always-trustworthy Rachel Walden turns her spotlight on the information provided by fertility clinics, and explains how difficult it is to get beyond the often-exaggerated claims of success to the real numbers about treatment outcomes (information that an earlier generation of health feminists fought to make available).

As we continue working to ensure that all women get the health care they need, we hope you enjoy these articles about the variety of women’s needs and the ways in which we can do more to improve and enhance women’s health.

This article was written by: Cindy Pearson

Cindy Pearson was the NWHN’s Executive Director from 1996 to 2021. One of the nation’s leading advocates for women’s health, Cindy often testified before Congress,  NIH and the FDA and was frequently featured in the news as a consumer expert on women’s health issues. When she retired, Cindy received a Congressional Resolution in honor of her outstanding contributions to the health of women and girls.