Why NC lawmakers should reverse their assaults on women’s health

Why NC lawmakers should reverse their assaults on women’s health

WB-7032013

(Editor’s note: In keeping with this afternoon’s Moral Monday demonstration at the North Carolina General Assembly on the issues of health and the environment, we offer the following remarks on the subject of women’s health that the author delivered at another recent Moral Mondays-Forward Together coalition event.)

The state has no more fundamental responsibility than providing a context in which all its citizens will be safe, secure, healthy, and able to flourish. And, as has been true throughout history, the ability of the state to protect the lives of the most vulnerable among us—including our children and our elderly and our disabled—relies, to a significant degree, on the readiness of women to care for them, whether in our homes or in our daycares, schools, nursing homes or hospitals. So women’s health is absolutely essential to the critical functions of the state. When women’s health is endangered, so is our state’s.

Women’s health depends on our ability to feed, clothe and house ourselves; it depends on our access to comprehensive health care; and it depends on our ability to make informed, conscientious, and fundamental decisions about whether and when to have children.

By reversing some of the decisions made in the last session, we can make great strides toward ensuring women’s health, and as a result, regain some of the ground we lost in providing the human infrastructure we need for healthy families and communities.

We can do this by:

  • Expanding Medicaid to help get health insurance—and thus, access to preventative, timely health care–to approximately 250,000 North Carolina women who currently lack it.
  • Reinstating the Earned Income Tax Credit to help low-wage women, including approximately 450,000 single mothers, provide the basic necessities of food, shelter, clothing and medicine that protects their health and that of their children.
  • Restoring the childcare subsidies that were cut to help make safe, affordable child care closer to a reality for the 36,000 families who are currently on a waitlist.
  • Passing the Caregivers Relief Act to allow more women to provide care to family members who need them. Currently more than 4 in 10 women in North Carolina lack access to any paid sick days for when they fall ill or when they need to care for sick family members.
  • Reinstating funding to teen pregnancy prevention and support services.
  • Insuring that young women have the information they need to make informed decisions about their own health and that of their families by protecting the integrity of health education in our schools and in our state. This requires repealing the decision to give taxpayer money to Crisis Pregnancy Centers, or CPCs, which target young women and women of color and mislead them with false information about birth control and abortion. It also requires repealing SB 132 which requires that our schools insert into their health curriculum scientifically inaccurate information, stating that abortion causes pre-term labor in later pregnancies.

When all women have access to jobs with living wages and family friendly benefits, when we have access to healthcare, to affordable housing, to top-notch childcare and to excellent public education from pre-K through university, and when we are provided with accurate information and the ability to make decisions based on our own analysis of the facts and our personal circumstances, then we will all be able to celebrate women’s health and that of our children, our families, our communities, and our state.

Dr. Rachel Seidman is Associate Director of the Southern Oral History Program at UNC Chapel Hill.