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Women’s Health Focus of Special Order

The Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues continued its tribute to Women’s History Month by conducting a special order on March 13 to discuss women’s health. Caucus Co-Chairs Judy Biggert (R-IL) and Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-CA) were joined by Reps. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Lois Capps (D-CA), Julia Carson (D-IN), Gene Green (D-TX), Connie Morella (R-MD), Louise Slaughter (D-NY), and Hilda Solis (D-CA).

Noting that women are the fastest growing group of those newly infected with HIV in the United States, Rep. Morella stated, “Many STDs and HIV are transmitted more easily from a man to a woman and are more likely to remain undetected in women, resulting in delayed diagnosis and treatment and even more severe complications. Yet…the only public health advice to women about preventing HIV and other STDs is to be monogamous or to use condoms.” Rep. Morella mentioned legislation she will be reintroducing that would increase funding for research on microbicides.

Rep. Millender-McDonald discussed women’s health as a lifespan issue. “There is also a need to focus on women’s health through the life cycle: adolescent, reproductive, middle-aged and older women, since their needs are different.” Calling for increased funding for women’s health research, Rep. Millender-McDonald stated that she would be introducing a bill that would increase funding for breast cancer, cervical cancer, lung cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

Addressing the issue of long-term care, Rep. Biggert stated, “This issue affects all Americans but particularly women for three reasons: Number 1 is we live longer; number 2, we are the ones who take care of our aging relatives; and number 3, we are much more likely to retire with little or no pension savings.” Rep. Biggert plans to reintroduce a bill that would provide a tax deduction for the purchase of long-term care, encourage employers to provide long-term care insurance, and provide a tax exemption for individuals providing long-term care to an elderly relative living in their home.

Rep. Capps discussed a number of women’s health issues, including family planning, managed care reform, prescription drug coverage, mental health, and cardiovascular disease. “Each new life stage poses its own unique demands upon a woman’s body. This is why further research on women’s health is so critical.”

Drawing attention to the role the environment plays in women’s health, Rep. Slaughter stated, “Women may be at greater risk for disease associated with environmental exposures due to several factors, including body fat and size, a slower metabolism of toxic substances, hormone levels, and for many, more exposure to household cleaning reagents.” Rep. Slaughter has introduced a bill (H.R. 183) that would establish multidisciplinary centers of research on women’s health and the environment at the National Institutes of Health.

Rep. Solis focused her comments on the lack of health insurance for low-income women. “This problem is even more pronounced for immigrant and minority low-income women,” she stated, adding: “Fifty-one percent of low-income Latinas are uninsured. Among uninsured Latino adults in fair to poor health, 24 percent of women have not visited a doctor in the past year….Let us provide them with affordable health care.”

Rep. Baldwin agreed, adding, “It is estimated that 19 percent of women in the United States lack health insurance coverage. Women and their children are disproportionately represented among the Nation’s uninsured population, primarily due to the number of women in service jobs and retail jobs which have low rates of employer-provided insurance and lower wages.”

Stressing the importance of educating women about cardiovascular disease, Rep. Carson stated, “Cardiovascular diseases are the number one killer of women….Although these statistics are enormous, many women are still not aware of their risk for heart disease.” She added, “We must ensure that doctors are provided with the proper educational tools and sensitivity understanding that they need in order to help women make the right decisions about their health and well-being.”

Commending the special order, Rep. Green added, “I would like to congratulate my colleagues, the congressional women, for making this effort today for special orders on women’s health. I would like to associate myself with their remarks, because everything they have said on a bipartisan basis is so important.”

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