Columns, Opinion

Gender Justice: The lack of gender equality in health care is life-threatening

Women’s health care and bodily autonomy are under attack in the United States. There has been a record number of abortion restrictions in the country over the last few months, with more than 500 restriction proposals across 44 different states in 2021. Twelve of these have already been passed and implemented.

In South Carolina, the governor attempted to ban virtually all abortions — if a heartbeat is detected, then the fetus cannot be aborted unless the person who is carrying the baby could die or if the fetus was conceived through rape or incest. Fortunately, the law was cannot take effect yet because abortion-rights groups sued.

Unbelievably, the governor of Arkansas signed an even more restrictive bill that only allowed abortion if the life of the person carrying is in danger. No exceptions were made for rape and incest. With this bill, if someone attempts to get an abortion, they could be fined up to $100,000 or even receive prison time.

Meredith Varner

I am so tired of seeing legislation regulating what a woman and those who can get pregnant can and cannot do with their own bodies. I bet if only cisgender men were the ones carrying children, they would not appreciate vagina-havers regulating their bodies.

Abortions are not the only part of reproductive health care, or even women’s health care, that are an issue. For example, I have consistently had to pay ridiculous amounts of money for specific birth control pills my gynecologist prescribed, even with insurance.

Most people do not understand how awful birth control can be and how many side effects it comes with. When I receive a new package, the side effect list opens up to be the size of a medium poster, filled with very tiny printed text of all the terrible things it could do to me.

An effective female birth control option that does not come with all of these risks still doesn’t exist, and yet this is normalized.

Funnily enough, a male birth control pill was in the clinical trial stage a couple years ago, but was eventually scrapped because of side effects such as depression and acne. Female birth control side effects include weight gain, mood swings, blood clots, nausea, headaches … and depression and acne, just to name a few on the extensive list.

Additionally, the tools most gynecologists have to use for our checkups are pretty barbaric when you think about it. Mammograms and pap smears are typically painful and terrifying. The entire experience of a yearly check-up at the gynecologist is pretty uncomfortable in my experience.

Alexia Nizhny/DFP STAFF

Unfortunately, these appointments are worsened by patronizing doctors who do not listen to us when we express discomfort, pain or fear.

It has been found that even when women report higher levels of pain, they are less likely to be prescribed pain medication than if a man complained of the same discomfort. Oftentimes, a woman’s pain is chalked up to emotional distress, and she is not taken seriously. These issues are not harmless — they can be life-threatening if a doctor is not listening to a complaint.

In modern-day Iowa, some medical institutions still require spousal approval before a person with a uterus can be given a hysterectomy. Many people in the state requesting the surgery have claimed their doctor required their husband’s approval beforehand.

Why does a spouse get any say in what I choose to have removed from my body? The entire notion is ridiculous and a little too dystopian for my taste.

My body and right to health care are dictated by far too many people who have no business telling me how I feel or what I can do with my body. I should be the only one in charge of that.

I hope we do not regress and continue to restrict women’s health care. Instead, we must find a way to give women and all vagina-havers the autonomy to make their own decisions and access to health care that will value our thoughts, opinions and fears.


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