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,:
Taken by the numbers alone, abortion is unremarkable in the United States. In 2015, an average of 11.8 abortions occurred per 1,000 women between the ages of 15-44. In the United Kingdom the average was 13; in Norway, Denmark, New Zealand and Iceland it was 12; in Sweden, it was 18. In Australia, only South Australia and Western Australia keep statistics on terminations, but extensive research by the ABC in 2017 suggests that the average national rate was about 13.5. Not only is the abortion rate unremarkable, the number of women undergoing the procedure has been decreasing since the 1980s.
How the United States legislates abortion, however, is remarkable. Recently, governors across the United States have signed a wave of extreme anti-abortion bills. Most, but not all, of these governors are Republican. Most, but not all, are men. Most, but not all, represent states in the South. They know that these bills will not become law without a constitutional change by the Supreme Court – their ultimate aim. But in the meantime, they are shifting cultural ideas of what abortion is.
Understanding why abortion is under attack in the United States means considering several threads that have been woven together by anti-abortion advocates for decades. Since the early 1970s, a coalition of people calling themselves pro-life have intertwined religious, political and cultural ideas about women’s reproductive rights into a potent and galvanising campaign to limit, and eventually ban, abortion in the United States.
Women have always sought to control how and when they give birth. In Colonial America, abortion was not only regularly practised but in the British colonies, it was also legal. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, abortion and birth control methods were widely discussed and practised.
Yet in 1873, Congress passed the Comstock Act which banned, among other things, birth control and abortifacients (substances that induced abortions). These laws were a culmination of efforts that had escalated since the religious fervour of the Second Great Awakening, However far from putting an end to American women’s efforts to control reproduction, the law pushed birth control and abortions underground.
Fast-forward to the twentieth century and American women continued to seek abortions, but were forced to use hidden, unregulated, and highly dangerous methods. In 1930, abortion was the official cause of death for around 2,700 women, although the real number would have been much higher.
By 1970, lawyers built on decades of women's rights activism by challenging the ban on abortion in the Supreme Court. They brought before the court the case of a young Texan woman, Norma McCorvey, known by the legal pseudonym Jane Roe. McCorvey had sought an abortion in Texas and sued for her rights to access the procedure. The Supreme Court eventually decided the case of Roe v Wade in 1973. Comprised of white, middle-aged, mostly conservative men, the court was hardly a bastion of liberal feminism. Yet it ruled 7-2 in favour of a woman’s right to an abortion. Abortion was now legal across the country. (Continue reading from the United States Studies Centre of Australia)
Office of Women's Health (US Department of Health and Human Services)
Women's Health (CDC)
Health Care and Reproductive Rights (National Women's Law Center)
Roe v. Wade (Oyez)
Get the Facts on Sexual Health (Planned Parenthood)
Sexual and Reproductive Justice (Global Fund for Women)
Origin of the Women's Health Movement (Power to Decide)
Women’s Involvement in Clinical Trials: Historical Perspective and Future Implications (US National Library of Medicine)
13 Ways States Can Protect and Advance Women’s Health and Rights (Center for American Progress)
The Intersection of Black Women's Rights and Reproductive Health (Planned Parenthood)
The V Word Podcast (Spotify)