Her Body, Their Choice.

The impact of politics on women’s health

Peyton Alch, Staff Writer

   Women around the country are being told “no.” Due to increased political focus in women’s health, women are being denied access to certain healthcare initiatives, especially regarding reproductive health. The role of politics in women’s health has impacted and regulated the ways in which women can receive healthcare. 

   “I think that the igniting factor is abortion,” Certified Nurse Midwife Nadine Flaharty said. “The ability to either bear a child or restrict the possibility of that happening is ultimately a woman’s choice. I think that many politicians are anxious to control that aspect of women’s lives.”

   Nonprofit organizations, such as Planned Parenthood, have been negatively impacted by the drastic increase in the politicization of women’s healthcare. Planned Parenthood is a nonprofit organization that provides healthcare services for women. Although they provide a variety of health services and screenings, many people seem to only associate the organization with abortions. This is why many want to defund their clinics, despite the fact that no federal funds are used to perform abortions. Instead, Planned Parenthood uses private donations to fund the procedures. 

   The Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2021 was introduced to the House in January of 2021. This bill restricts any federal funding for Planned Parenthood clinics for one year unless they certify that the clinics will not perform abortions. Planned Parenthood’s budget is tied to Congress, so they have control over where the money goes. Defunding Planned Parenthood decreases healthcare access for so many women, many of whom are dependent on the free healthcare provided, beyond just abortions. 

   “General health checkups, as well as things like STD testing and cancer checks, are available to women,” Flaharty said. “So when Planned Parenthood is threatened, it’s a whole litany of healthcare that is threatened.”

   According to Planned Parenthood statistics, 56 percent of their health clinics are in rural areas with less health access, which helps provide healthcare to women who aren’t insured, or who can’t afford to go to a primary care physician. Michael Stroup, an OB-GYN at Winnie Palmer Hospital, explains that lack of insurance can be a large factor. Many women who don’t have insurance, have to rely on places where free healthcare is offered.

   “The big struggle is whether you’re insured or not,” Stroup said. “A large percentage of the population, especially in Florida, is uninsured. Even though people can get emergency care, many don’t really have good access to primary care.”

   Stroup added that he believes it is unlikely that the political debate about women’s right to healthcare will end anytime soon. Politics play an instrumental role in the healthcare system, specifically impacting women’s health issues, widening the gender gap associated with men and women’s access to healthcare.

   With many medical procedures, including sterilization, there is a huge gender gap between what men have access to and how they can get it compared to women. In a 2014 article from the Chicago Tribune, a woman spoke about her experience trying to have a tubal ligation, which is a surgical procedure to prevent pregnancy. 

   Doctors were hesitant to give her one, telling her she might change her mind in the future. When her husband went to a doctor seeking a vasectomy, he was given one with little resistance. 

   “They don’t restrict vasectomies, for example,” Flaharty said. “Men typically don’t make the decisions when it comes to terminations. I think the fact that women have the right to make their own decisions causes many politicians to feel the need to control that.”

   With constant challenges to women’s reproductive health, politics are more prominent in healthcare than ever and will continue to impact women of all ages. Eighth grader Mila Taylor expressed her concern about how women’s health is changing. She said that these drastic changes are impacting women everywhere, including young girls. 

   “I feel like it especially affects our mental well-being,” Taylor said. “Knowing that random politicians are trying to control what we do with our bodies is really frustrating, especially because men’s health isn’t constantly challenged by politics the way women’s health is.”

   Women’s health being constantly undermined and restricted negatively affects the health and overall welfare of young girls. 

   Recently, state and federal lawmakers want to prevent teens from accessing contraceptive care unless they ask their parents for permission. These laws can lead to higher rates of unwanted pregnancy and STDs. 

   “It impacts us too, especially people like teen moms, who should have the ability to make a decision about their bodies for themselves but can’t,” Taylor said. 

   Women everywhere are continuing to be impacted by constant political involvement and restrictive laws. Flaharty explains that politics shouldn’t affect how women make decisions about their bodies, because it is an innate right. 

   “Healthcare has nothing to do with law, nothing to do with anything other than a woman’s right to make decisions for herself,” Flaharty said.