March celebrates Women’s History which is, as we know, integral to our entire history and vital for collective progress and learning. But to really honor and recognize women’s role in a myriad of environments and settings, we need to treat them as the humans they are—with full rights and power to decide what is best for themselves, their careers, their families, and their lives.
Every day brings a story of a friend, co-worker or fellow community member who has experienced the effects of not having full and equal access to healthcare. And each story has common themes—women aren’t trusted to know their own bodies or what’s best for their situations.
Just last week I spoke with a friend who experienced really frightening medical situation—she’s in a small rural community and at the only urgent care – she was dismissed, sent home even after the cardiac information was worrisome. She was made to feel she was overreacting. When she questioned the test results, she was told “you’re just fine.” Subsequently when she met with her regular doctors—she was right to be worried.
Another woman was poisoned at a bar--- but dismissed at the ER because well, they don’t test for that date rape drug and well she would be okay after she slept it off. “It happens all the time…” To add insult to injury, they dismissed her as drunk. She didn’t get the care she needed to recover. Thanks to a kind nurse, she got help getting home.
Another friend needed surgery, but a divorce and family crisis took away her access to timely, affordable healthcare for several years! Years! Now she may face even more complicated solutions as a cancer survivor. She has no reserve savings, a job without paid medical leave, three struggling children.
Another friend experienced some painful gynecological issues—the advice? “Get yourself a bottle of wine and you won’t feel a thing. “Absolutely dumbfounding. Fortunately, she did not follow that advice but had the chance to see another doctor who shared her horror and informed her she needed surgery and with proper care she would be okay.
Now this is not a rant against the medical profession. There are countless smart, caring and dedicated medical professionals. There are community groups helping women and those without access to healthcare but wow, do we have work to do.
There is a lot of research to support the fact that women are most likely to be denied care. Women of all ages, sizes, and colors. But women of color are even more likely to lack access to healthcare and if they do have access, they are too frequently dismissed.
I am willing to bet that every single person reading this entry—Democrat, Republican or Independent--- knows of, is related to, or has heard from a woman who is experiencing trouble with accessing healthcare, prescriptions, or essential care.
The Dobbs’ decision isn’t just about access to abortion. It is all about limiting a woman’s right to decide her own future. A basic right to receive healthcare. It is, in my opinion, about one element of our society passing judgement on another segment and forcing them to live by a twisted “moral” code of the prevailing element’s choosing.
While my focus today is about access to healthcare the overall puzzle is like a huge Rubik’s cube. I know that childcare access and funding, equal pay, paid family leave and post high school education (college or trade related) are critical pieces to advancing women of all backgrounds and situations.
Women are a part of our history and yet they don’t receive equal pay, equal access to healthcare and as a result—women, who most often are chief caregivers, primary income earners and active community members—are awarded just one month out of the year so society can feel better about recognizing them.
If we want to really see and recognize women, let’s start with finally giving them the rights that others enjoy—freedom to choose, freedom to take care of themselves and freedom to chase their dreams. Rather than one month out of every year, let’s honor women as the productive, smart, and generous human beings they are – now.
For your information, here are some sources discussing trends in women’s healthcare and women’s employment.
- Chinn JJ, Martin IK, Redmond N. Health equity among Black Women in the United States. J Womens Health (Larchmt) 2021;30(2):212–219; doi: 10.1089/jwh.2020.8868 Link, Google Scholar
- Onarheim KH, Iversen JH, Bloom DE. Economic benefits of investing in women's health: A systematic review. PLoS One 2016;11(3):e0150120; doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0150120 Crossref, Medline, Google Scholar
- Understanding the Economic Impact of COVID-19 on Women Claudia Goldin, Harvard University https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/SP22_BPEA_Goldin_conf-draft.pdf (see quote below).
- “It seems safe to say that no one was untouched by the pandemic. But much of the deepest economic impact and personal pain was experienced by women. Many were caregivers for their own children and parents; some worked as aides for other people. Their jobs put them on the front 1 The Great Influenza of 1918 was not accompanied or followed by an economic recession of any magnitude, possibly because World War I was an economic boost or because the economy was not placed in as extreme a coma as ours has been. In addition, the virus may have more rapidly mutated to a less virulent form, ultimately transitioning to an endemic seasonal flu. 2 BPEA SP22 GOLDIN lines in hospitals, nursing homes, and grocery stores. Others worked in restaurants, hospitality, retail, and personal service, and saw their workplaces shuttered. These women are of all types. But those who were most impacted were the mothers of school-aged and younger children, Black and Hispanic women, single moms, and adult daughters who cared for parents. They may bear the marks of the pandemic for some time.”