Currently in the United States, liberal politicians are experiencing the consequences of advocating for health care reform that improves quality of life: a loss of 63 seats in the House and six in the Senate. In thanks for passing a piece of legislation that extends health insurance to thousands who were previously ineligible, pays for medication that was otherwise unaffordable, and asks employers to take responsibility for the health of their workers, the Democratic party and the Obama administration have been handed a “do not pass go, do not collect $200” card by the American voters. Rather than making progress, we will now make compromises; compromises that compromise women’s health.
Many people are talking about the National Women’s Law Center’s recently published report card on women’s health, which indicates that women across the country are experiencing declining health in several arenas. The good news is that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act addresses many of the issues that the NWLC notes as problematic, implying that there is great potential to improve the status of women’s health before the next report. The bad news is that when it comes to women’s health, the U.S. still generates among the very worst statistics of all developed nations. And unless we are able to progress toward increased funding for preventative care and services, more holistic views of well-being throughout the life cycle, and policies that respect a person’s right to make informed decisions about his/her health, we will continue to drop in the international ratings.
The U.S.’s policy on maternity leave (or lack thereof) is a perfect representation of our nation’s continued ignorance, inaction and irresponsibility when it comes to the health of women and their families. Because this policy encompasses so many different factors that add up to general well-being – physical and emotional health of parent and child, access to information and education, economic security and development of a community among other things – it is a reflection of our priorities when it comes to health.