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2012: The Year We Talk About Women's Health?

Well, it’s been quite a couple of weeks for women’s health issues.
State Sen. Janet Howell (D-VA)
State Sen. Janet Howell (D-VA)

Well, it’s been quite a couple of weeks for women’s health issues. While the economy is, no doubt, the largest concern for most Americans heading into the 2012 Presidential race—it’s hard to deny that these social issues are going to play a big role in this election cycle.

Here’s a rundown of some the big stories:

-On a local level, Virginia is making headlines as it becomes yet another state poised to pass a bill that would require women seeking an abortion to have (and pay for) an ultrasound prior to the procedure. The “informed-consent” law, as it’s called, would give the woman the option to view the sonogram before terminating the pregnancy or sign a form to decline. The State Senate voted 21-18 in favor of the bill and now it moves on to a House of Delegates, where the GOP has a two thirds majority and it is expected to pass.

As a tongue-in-cheek response, state Senator Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) attached an amendment to the bill that would require men to have a rectal exam and a cardiac stress test prior to obtaining a prescription for erectile dysfunction medication. Sen. Howell argued on the Senate floor “It’s only fair, that if we’re going to subject women to unnecessary procedures, and we’re going to subject doctors to having to do things that they don’t think is medically advisory, well, Mr. President, I think we should have a little gender equity here.”While the Senate rejected the amendment with a 21-19 vote, Sen. Howell considered the amendment and subsequent vote to be symbolic.

Karen Handel


-Then, of course, we had the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s decision to pull its funding from Planned Parenthood (and its non-reversal of that decision—in which they said they would continue funding “existing grants”, something that was never in jeopardy, but said nothing of future funding). In the aftermath, Planned Parenthood raised about $3 million and the outcry resulted in VP of Public Policy, and conservative activist, Karen Handel’s resignation.


House Speaker John Boehner

-And a provision in the Affordable Care Act called the Preventative Services Mandate-- that requires health insurance plans to cover the cost of contraceptive services for women-- has been the subject of some major scrutiny this week as well.  This is because the provision is sweeping, and would require Catholic charities, hospitals and universities to provide the services—which conservatives and religious leaders say infringes on the church’s religious freedom (as they don’t condone birth control of any kind). The debate has been heated and one contaminated with a key bit of misinformation… Speaker John Boehner came out Wednesday and reiterated the (false) claim that this would include “abortion-inducing drugs and devices.” To clarify: the mandate would include access to Plan B (the “morning-after pill”—a contraceptive that prevents pregnancy by preventing ovulation or fertilization and does not have an effect on established pregnancies).

While the administration says it is continuing to work with religious-affiliated institutions to find a “solution that would be sensitive to their beliefs”—while still providing women with contraceptive coverage—this debate seems to have provided a perfectly packaged political showdown just in time for election season.