Stories of missed diagnoses are everywhere. One woman endures severe pain for a decade before her endometriosis is diagnosed. The source of a woman’s stomach pain is a parasitic worm, but that diagnosis only comes after seven years. Another woman loses her mother to cancer, which her doctors missed until it was too late. After a December C-HIT column about women getting inferior treatment from health care providers, the stories came pouring in.
In ancient Greece, a woman who complained of pain—or one who acted outside the limited social norm available to her—was thought to be suffering from “wandering womb,” which was closely related to hysteria. The uterus was thought to float free within a woman’s body and cause all kinds of medical and emotional issues. The cure, for the most part, was marriage. Of course, that’s silly, but consider how far we haven’t come in the treatment of women’s complaints about pain. Recent data on women’s shoddy treatment by health care providers paints a stunning picture of medical apathy and worse.
Over the past 20 years, Connecticut women with cognitive or physical disabilities have found their way to the Gaylord Specialty Healthcare’s Gynecological Clinic for Women with Disabilities in Wallingford. There, obstetrician-gynecologist (ob-gyn) Anna Tirado provides routine and preventive gynecological care to disabled women. Now nearing retirement age, Tirado isn’t sure what will happen when she no longer sees patients. “I am very worried. The patients are not going to be easily absorbed into a private practice,” she said.
Since two Greenwich students—Amy Barratt and Charlotte Hallisey—convinced their local school board to provide menstrual supplies for free to students in middle and high school, they’ve taken their initiative statewide with an online petition and lobbying at the state capitol. They’ve been joined by other activists. The young women’s initiative—dubbed the Period Project—has earned the support of key state senators and representatives, including Sen. Derek Slap, D-West Hartford. “To me, this initiative is a no-brainer,” Slap said after meeting with other legislators and the Greenwich women in September. “This isn’t a women’s issue; it’s an issue of equality, and it’s something that men should be just as interested in.”
Imagine if you had to pay for toilet paper every time you visited a public bathroom at libraries, restaurants, or schools.
In theory, a do-it-yourself rape kit, where a victim of rape or sexual assault collects evidence in the privacy of his or her home, seems like a good idea. Going to the police or a hospital after a rape is immeasurably difficult for some. There’s a stigma, and victims may fear mistreatment at the hands of law enforcement or hospital personnel. But advocates and others say newly introduced home rape kits are roughly as useless as the boxes they come in. There’s no guarantee self-collected evidence is admissible in court, and the kits aren’t nearly as comprehensive as those offered by the state.
If you Googled “elderly sex” recently—in Connecticut, at least—up popped an August news story about the arrest of six seniors in connection with group sex in a Fairfield nature preserve. The people ranged in age from 62 to 85, though charges against two were dropped. Morning radio had a field day. When it comes to sex and the senior set, those jokes write themselves. And that’s unfortunate.
Every day an estimated 6,000 women in the U.S. reach menopause, a natural part of aging. But for countless women, it feels like anything but. The symptoms, which range from merely bothersome to debilitating, are triggered by the body’s loss of estrogen, which occurs at a median age of 50 to 52 among women in industrialized countries. Vasomotor symptoms alone (hot flashes, night sweats), which disrupt sleep and count as the most commonly reported complaint, last an average of 10 years and affect nearly 90 percent of menopausal women. A recent study published in the journal Menopause found that 250,000 women who suffered from hot flashes lost a cumulative $300 million per year in wages due to lost productivity and doctor visits, compared to asymptomatic women.
While the American theocracy tightens its stranglehold on the wombs of women in Georgia, Alabama, Missouri and elsewhere, how safe are the women of Connecticut, which has some of the country’s least restrictive abortion laws? As always, your safety may depend on your income. Women with means will always be able to get abortions, whether that means spending money to travel where they are available, and finding (and paying) a doctor willing to perform the operation. But women who live in poverty are always vulnerable to the vagaries of politics, said Sarah Croucher, NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut executive director. Connecticut is good for women, but women who are poor may have some significant challenges if abortion is restricted nationally.
Slowly—but perhaps surely—the country is beginning to address maternal mortality, both through legislation and through initiatives on the part of health care providers. This is critical. We have lost countless women to pregnancy and childbirth, and the majority of those deaths didn’t have to happen. This holds true especially for mothers of color. Black and American Indian/Alaska Native women are about three times as likely to die from pregnancy as white women, according to a study released earlier this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
I am writing to ask you to do the right thing. The U.S. House of Representatives—including the entire Connecticut delegation—voted last week to reauthorize a version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that includes, among other changes, placing limits on convicted domestic abusers’ ability to buy firearms. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd, and Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District, were two of the co-sponsors of the bill. The reauthorization passed 263 to 158 despite heavy lobbying by the National Rifle Association, which has become nothing more than a soulless gun delivery system. The organization lobbied especially hard against an expansion of the act that adds restrictions on gun-ownership by current or former dating partners, which closes the so-called “boyfriend loophole.”
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the presence of a gun in the home of someone who commits domestic abuse increases fivefold the possibility of a homicide happening in that home. In a study that compared violent death rates in the U.S. with other high-income countries, U.S. women were 16 times more likely to be killed with a gun.