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Pro-life and pro-choice advocates are missing the mark on a very real women’s healthcare issue

And they need to step up.


“Women’s healthcare” is not only about abortion or family planning. One very real and horrific condition that afflicts millions of women is one they don’t have any choice in contracting whatsoever, and it’s more difficult than you can imagine for them to be listened to – much less get the care that can cure it.

I am talking about endometriosis. Think about the worst abdominal cramps you’ve ever had, coupled with the most debilitating migraine and the heaviest period ever. That’s a day in the life of someone suffering from endometriosis. A cousin condition is fibroid tumors. While sometimes not as painful, they can become “as large as the size of a watermelon,” according to the Cleveland Clinic. Both conditions can cause continuous uterine bleeding and can rob women in their prime years of reproductive ability.


These conditions trash quality of life but you won’t often hear them debated in state capitals or in Congress.

(Photo: Bindi Irwin, Twitter)

People don’t like to talk about blood. Women aren’t supposed to talk about being in physical or emotional pain.


As a result of this secrecy, family practitioners and sometimes even experienced gynecologists often miss or ignore the symptoms, for far too long.


If a woman of color told me she had symptoms like uterine pain and nonstop bleeding, and that no healthcare professional would understand or treat her, I’d 100% believe her.


Because think about this: an Australian TV star, Bindi Irwin, suffered for ten years before anyone believed her.


Ten years.


Don’t go blaming this on male healthcare providers. A woman who treated Bindi told her she was suffering from a condition “you go through as a woman.”


Ten years.


Not even being famous could get Bindi to the front of the line to see specialists. When it finally happened, Bindi had surgery, during which more than 30 lesions were found, perhaps not surprising considering how long she suffered. She reports she’s feeling better, and let’s hope so because she has her life ahead of her.


She’s only 24.


She courageously came forward this week to share her horror story and that has ignited a long-overdue conversation.


When will the conversation convert to real advocacy – for training for internists, family doctors, nurses, ER staff, and gynecologists, to address the symptoms sooner? For access to specialists who really know their stuff? For insurance to cover treatment? Can pro-life advocates champion treatment for a condition that could be preventing millions of women from being able to conceive and give life? Can pro-choice advocates support a woman’s right to a healthy uterus?


Or will partisan bias continue to sandbag a part of women’s access to healthcare that’s critically important? Can everyone suffering please get the support they need? I’m calling on everyone who wants to make women’s bodies the center of political arguments. Step right up.


Postscript: Why am I so passionate? I had a journey with fibroid tumors. My troubles began following a miscarriage, and didn’t stop, and didn’t stop, and didn’t stop. When things got worse in year three, I wound up in emergency rooms, nearly hemorrhaging, where a nurse told me this was “all in your mind.” My internist sent the same nurse practitioner in to examine me every time I made an appointment. I’m sure she knew a lot about strep throat and flu, but she was out of her league here. It takes a strong-willed and high-character significant other, family member, or friend, to support a woman going through this. Thank God I had that. We had to threaten to sue the doctor before I was referred to a specialist who performed life-changing surgery. I know what I’m talking about.


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