Women’s Health Becomes Political Football, Just as Women’s History Month Starts

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Women’s Health Becomes Political Football, Just as Women’s History Month Starts

by Gloria Lau
Chief Executive Officer, YWCA USA

Gloria Lau
Gloria Lau

In this critical election year and as we mark the start of Women’s History Month today, it is hard to imagine that basic health care for women has become a political football.  In 2012.

Today, nearly 99% of all women have relied on contraception at some point in their lives.  Now, after years of progress for women’s access to contraception, we have a key vote in the U.S. Senate today that will affect all of us, women, men, and families, in communities across the country.  It is ironic that the U.S. Senate, a body comprised of 524 men and 17 women, is scheduled to vote on S. 1467, the “Respect for Rights of Conscience Act.”  This is an amendment proposed by Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) that seeks to limit women’s ability to obtain contraception from their employers.

As an organization that has been dedicated to improving the lives of all women in our nation for more than a century, we at the YWCA USA are proud of the role we have played in advocating for women’s rights including the right to accessible, affordable healthcare.  In 1934, the YWCA called for legislation to provide for disseminating birth control information under authorized medical direction – a right that was finally granted by the federal government in 1972.  Yet, as with the Blunt amendment, some in Congress want to make a woman’s ability to obtain contraception insurance coverage incumbent upon the beliefs of her employer, without regard for her health care needs.

As an organization dedicated to the empowerment of women, we believe that individuals have a right to their own beliefs and choices.  When the health care of women is placed at-risk because Congress has gone too far to inject politics into personal decisions, we must object.  The Blunt amendment is a prime example of this.

Today is the start of Women’s History Month.  We should be celebrating the success of women including the fact that women have gained control over their health choices.   Instead, we find ourselves having to work to prevent some of our political leaders from taking us backwards. The best way we can honor women’s history and ensure that women’s progress continues is to ensure that the Blunt amendment to S. 1467 goes down in defeat.

Gloria Lau is the Chief Executive Officer of the YWCA USA.

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