I am eagerly anticipating an end to the presidential debates this November. However, I must admit that I have been drawn into the presidential candidate debates, and as a woman have been outraged by the lack of respect that we continue to be given in political decisions.
I am the great-granddaughter of a Daughter of Liberty who was also the first woman in her family to cut her hair in a bob (which was just plain unheard of in the early 1900s). In fact, her mother-in-law did not speak to her until the birth of her first child several years later.
Besides my great-grandmother, some other notable women of this time were:
These are just a few of the courageous women who paved the way for the rights we currently have, yet it seems as though we are at risk of having our rights terminated by bureaucratic decision making, taking away basic healthcare rights of women, which were so courageously fought for so many years ago.
Are women in danger of losing access to basic healthcare and screening modalities?
The answer is yes. Lifesaving services provided by Planned Parenthood are at risk of losing federal funding, birth control options may soon be in the hands of insurance companies and employers, and Roe vs. Wade is at risk of being overturned.
Has anyone thought of contraceptive use for reasons outside of birth control, such as management of menstrual abnormalities, ovarian cyst management, the treatment of acne, and also as ovarian cancer prevention in high-risk populations? Will these women have important medical decisions made by their employers or insurance companies instead of themselves and their medical providers?
So where do the presidential candidates stand on the issue?
There is no denying where Governor Romney stands on the issue of Planned Parenthood. He was quoted saying the following:
Well they can go wherever they'd like to go... This is a free society. But here's what I'd say, which is the federal government should not tax these people to pay for Planned Parenthood... The idea of the federal government funding Planned Parenthood I'm going to say no, we're going to stop that.
Per his Website, he is in favor of overturning Roe vs. Wade and supports the Hyde Amendment, a legislative provision barring the use of federal funds to pay for abortion services.
His stance on birth control is obvious. He supports the Blunt Amendment, which will restrict a woman's access to birth control allowing employers to determine its provision of birth control and right to deny access to birth control based on "moral" conviction.
When asked about contraceptives, President Obama states, "I don't believe that bureaucrats in Washington should tell someone whether they can use contraceptives or not, and I don't believe employers should tell someone whether they can have contraceptive care or not."
Planned Parenthood provides women with services, such as breast cancer screenings, cervical cancer screenings, evaluation and treatment of male and female sexually transmitted diseases, GYN evaluations, etc. Taking this service away is placing women's health in jeopardy. Thousands of women without access to an alternative form of healthcare are at risk of losing basic screening modalities for preventable cancers placing them at higher risk of advanced disease at presentation and possibly higher mortality rates.
According to the NCI, in 2010, cancer care accounted for approximately $124.6 billion in the United States. The NCI also notes that, for example, mammograms assist in reduction of breast cancer-related mortality especially in the age population of 50 to 69. Risk reduction is reduced by 30 percent in those ages and 17 percent in women in their fourth decade of life. They note that while mammogram screening in women older than 70 may be beneficial, there is a lack of evidence to support this. The NCI also notes that there is a reduction in cervical cancer-related deaths when Pap smears are utilized and when treatment is administered in a timely manner.
When it comes to cost, it is important to note that the average cost of an eight-week treatment with chemotherapy can range from $100 to $30,000. In many GYN malignancies where chemotherapy is required, women may be treated with as many as three to eight 21-day cycles and many times are offered maintenance therapy with weekly and bi-monthly options.
Let's do some math here...
In 2009, the average cost of a mammogram was $200 and the average cost of a Pap smear was $100. Planned Parenthood estimates the cost of oral contraceptives ranges from $15 to $50 per month, thus a 12-month supply would range anywhere from $180 to $600 per year.
Now, I am no math wizard, but clearly whoever is in control of the US calculator needs to take a look at some arithmetic.
As women, and as healthcare providers, do we do a good enough job of protecting the rights of ourselves and our patients?
Do we separate our moral and religious beliefs from our administration of comprehensive healthcare to meet the needs of our patients?