These last several weeks, I (like other JWA bloggers) have walked around in a haze of frustration, rage, and despair over politicians' apparent blindness to the centrality of women's health to national health. As a historian, I can attest that as goes women's health, so goes the health of the nation.
I read this New York Timesarticle about the role of pharmaceutical companies in creating a market for treating menopause at about midnight, and I was so appalled that the article doesn't mention journalist and women's health activist Barbara Seaman that I couldn't sleep and got out of bed at 1 a.m. to write this post.
Last Friday, Michelle Obama spoke to leaders of several women's groups arguing that "overhauling the nation’s health care system was of critical importance to women and part of 'the next step' in their long quest to assure full opportunity and equality." With healthcare reform at the forefront, it is becoming more and more obvious that the status quo is sexist, unfair, and often dangerous for women. For the first time in a long time, I am getting angry.
I first "met" Barbara Seamen through my dissertation research. Reading her books about women’s health and her personal archives, I encountered a woman who was prescient, outspoken, and brave. At a time when most feminists celebrated the wonders of the Pill, which freed sex from reproduction, Seaman investigated its costs to women’s health, publishing her first book, The Doctors’ Case Against the Pill, in 1969.
Today is the 35th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, legalizing abortion. In commemoration, I’ve been reading Behind Every Choice is a Story, by Gloria Feldt, former president of Planned Parenthood – a book that I’ve been meaning to read for a while.
While Hadassah, Jewish Women International, and the National Council for Jewish Women were busy weighing-in on the HPV vaccination debate (see February’s blog entry: “HPV Vaccinations: Choice or Mandate?”) the Orthodox Union (OU) has been firing its way into sexual health rhetoric by launching its own take on the “abstinence only” movement; a movement which has been dominated by the Christian Right. The OU now stands proudly behind the First Abstinence Website for Jewish Teens.
It’s the story of an immigrant struggling to survive economically in the big city, a woman running for president, a crusade against pornography and birth control, a decades-long debate on how to achieve political equality for women.