Skip to Main Content

Women's Health: About

Women's Health


What is Women's Health?

Women have unique health issues. And some of the health issues that affect both men and women can affect women differently.

Unique issues include pregnancy, menopause, and conditions of the female organs. Women can have a healthy pregnancy by getting early and regular prenatal care. They should also get recommended breast cancer, cervical cancer, and bone density screenings.

Women and men also have many of the same health problems. But these problems can affect women differently. For example,:

  • Women are more likely to die following a heart attack than men
  • Women are more likely to show signs of depression and anxiety than men
  • The effects of sexually transmitted diseases can be more serious in women
  • Osteoarthritis affects more women than men
  • Women are more likely to have urinary tract problems  Continue reading from MedlinePlus

Reproductive Rights in the United States

Reproductive rights are a class of human rights associated with reproductive health and autonomy. They may include the right to plan a family, use birth control, receive sex education in public schools, end a pregnancy, and gain access to reproductive health services. The legal contours of these rights vary widely across the world.

Conflicting views regarding the ethical, moral, and religious status of things like birth control, abortion, and family planning often lead to emotionally and politically charged controversy. The resulting debate touches on some of the most sensitive issues in society. For example, the most controversial aspect of the reproductive rights debate in the United States has long been abortion.

Where do Reproductive Rights Come From?

Again, reproductive rights are a diverse subset of human rights. To understand how these rights work legally, it is useful to start with a distinction between “negative" and “positive" rights.

Negative rights focus on freedom and liberty. They can be expressed as a right to be left to one's own devices. For example, freedom of speech is a negative right to express oneself openly, freely, and without sanction. By contrast, positive rights entitle you to a certain benefit. Further, they imply a government duty to provide that benefit. For example, the right to a minimum education implies a duty to provide that education.

How does this translate to reproductive rights? Much of the debate surrounding reproductive rights focuses on personal liberty to make your own choices when it comes to reproduction (i.e., a negative right). Thus, though the U.S. Constitution does not make specific reference to reproductive rights, the Supreme Court has read the document to limit government interference with things like procreation (Skinner v. Oklahoma), contraception (Eisenstadt v. Baird), family relationships (Prince v. Massachusetts), and child rearing (Pierce v. Society of Sisters).

However, though the Constitution focuses heavily on protecting negative rights, it creates few duties to provide government benefits. In other words, the Constitution does not create a positive right to information, resources, and facilities associated with reproduction. For example, though Eisenstadt stopped the government from outlawing contraceptives, it did not create a duty to provide contraceptive methods to the public.

Looking beyond the Constitution, the positive right to “reproductive health care services, and goods, and facilities" is well-recognized in international human rights law. For example, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) explains that these benefits must be (1) provided in adequate numbers, (2) accessible physically and economically, (3) accessible without discrimination, and (4) of good quality. Even so, international compliance with these standards varies widely.

The Abortion Debate: “Pro-life" vs. “Pro-choice"?

Abortion is the single most controversial issue involving reproduction in the United States. On one hand, “pro-choice" advocates argue that the right to an abortion falls within the right to control your own body. They believe the medical decision to end a pregnancy should rest with the patient and her doctor. On the other, “pro-life" advocates argue that an unborn fetus is a living being at the moment of conception. They believe that abortion should be restricted to protect a fetal right to life.  Continue reading from FindLaw

Resources on Women's Health from our Collection

Link to The new handbook for a post-Roe America by Robin Marty. in the catalog
Link to Controlling Women by Kathryn Kolbert & Julie F. Kay.
Link to The family Roe by Joshua Prager in the catalog
Link to Choice words by Annie Finch in the catalog
Link to The pain gap by Anushay Hossain in the catalog
Link to I know what's best for you edited by Shelly Oria in the catalog
Link to Pain and Prejudice by Gabrielle Jackson in the catalog
Link to Heart solution for Women by Mark Menolascino
Link to Your sexual health by Kate White in the catalog
Link to Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez in the catalog
Link to My body, my choice by Robin Stevenson in the catalog