Mission Hills resident and Kansas State Rep. Barbara Bollier – a retired physician — has frequently found herself among sparse company in Topeka on issues of reproductive health. As the increasingly conservative state government moved toward restricting access to abortion during the past legislative session, she took vocal stands against the measures.
Last week, she decided she had to back away from plans to raise the profile of reproductive health science by introducing a measure to make Jan. 22-28 Reproductive Health Awareness Week in the state. Here’s an editorial Bollier put together explaining the decision:
This past year I was privileged to be a part of the Kansas Legislative Health Academy, a program developed by the Kansas Health Institute. The participants were all Kansas legislators, and we learned that more effective legislation could be produced as a result of healthy communication and sharing of ideas.
This 2012 Kansas Legislative Session I planned to propose a Resolution regarding women’s reproductive health. My hope was to move the legislature’s focus away from the never-ending battle over abortion and instead place it on women’s reproductive health. I found that there was not adequate support for this Resolution to come through a House or Senate committee. It appears the time is not yet right. But the message does need to be heard.
Other state legislators from around the country have introduced similar resolutions this past week. My version for Kansas reads as follows:
WHEREAS: Women comprise more than half of the population of the United States of America; and
WHEREAS: Women who plan their pregnancies are more likely to seek prenatal care, improving their own health and the health of their children; and
WHEREAS: The United States of America ranks 30th in the world in its rate of maternal mortality and has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality among all developed nations; and
WHEREAS: Family planning services improve health care outcomes and wellness for women and families, access to family planning is directly linked to declines in maternal and infant mortality rates, and women who do not receive prenatal care are three to four times more likely to die after a live birth than are women who have received even minimal prenatal care; and
WHEREAS: Contraception enables women to better prevent unintended pregnancies and plan for pregnancy when they do want to have a child, and publicly funded contraceptive services and supplies prevent nearly two million unintended pregnancies each year in the United States; and
WHEREAS: Nearly half of all unintended pregnancies end in abortion and abortion rates in the United States of America increase during times when contraception is less accessible to low income women; and
WHEREAS: The United States of America has one of the highest rates of unintended pregnancy among the world’s developed nations, half of all the pregnancies in the United States are unintended, and half of unintended pregnancies occur in women who are not using contraceptives; and
WHEREAS: In addition to the primary purpose of allowing women to plan and prepare for pregnancy, other health benefits of contraception include reduced risk of endometrial and ovarian cancers, ectopic pregnancy, iron deficiency anemia related to heavy menstruation, osteoporosis, and ovarian cysts; and
WHEREAS: Racial and ethnic health disparities are particularly pronounced in reproductive health – including disparities in rates of contraception usage, unintended pregnancies, maternal mortality, and sexually transmitted infections – and these disparities reveal significant barriers to access to sexual health care (including contraception), medical care, and medically accurate sexuality education;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT THE WEEK OF JANUARY 22 – 28, 2012 shall be recognized as REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH AWARENESS WEEK, to encourage public awareness, conversation, and support for reproductive health nationwide.
Many women (and men) in Kansas and the rest of the United States are ready for lawmakers to begin this conversation. Let’s work together to find ways to reduce unintended pregnancy and improve the reproductive health of women.
Kansas House of Representatives