What are the critical health issues facing women in Maryland these days? Most derive from the continuing attempt of a growing group of religious extremists to stigmatize women, to hoist their retrosexual agenda on the state and country. All involve turning the clock back to a time when women were the property of their fathers and husbands, when single women were scorned and economic opportunities for all women were severely restricted. To a time before women were finally able to exert control over their bodies and reproductive lives.
We need strong leadership in Annapolis to secure the full range of women’s rights. Senator Sharon Grosfeld of District 18 was a reliable, strong and passionate voice for women’s rights and women’s health during her twelve years in the General Assembly. With her retirement in 2006 we lost that voice in the trenches in Annapolis, and have yet to replace it.
Sharon was my role model when I began considering a political career. I want to continue her work as your Senator, even if I cannot replace her voice, and lead with my own passion and skills as both a woman and a physician.
Women benefit greatly from the Affordable Care Act. Beyond those changes which impact everyone, the provision of comprehensive benefits includes maternity care. States are encouraged to provide significantly greater family planning under Medicaid. All women are allowed an OB-GYN physician for primary care without a gatekeeper. Discrimination based on gender is illegal, and being a victim of domestic violence will no longer be grounds for rescission of contract or denial of coverage as a pre-existing condition. Free-standing birthing centers and smoking cessation for pregnant women is being added to Medicaid coverage. Being a woman is no longer a “pre-existing condition.”
A “clean bill of health” for Maryland’s women includes the following:
- Legal obligation of physicians and other health care workers to treat all patients, without any loopholes related to “conscience.”
- Safe and affordable access for all women to all forms of contraception. We made progress last year with the NARAL-promoted Contraceptive Equity Act, removing contraception co-pays (for men as well) and expanding access to over-the- counter contraceptives.
- Legal obligation to dispense contraception by pharmacists without exception.
- Insurance coverage of all forms of contraception.
- Making abortion safe and accessible to all women without exception.
- Prohibiting religious pregnancy “clinics” from deceiving the public. I’m proud to have worked for Councilmember Trachtenberg to ban false advertising by such “Crisis Pregnancy Centers” in Montgomery County, which passed early in 2010. A legal challenge is currently wending its way through federal court.
- Fully implementing the teaching of comprehensive sex education. We’ve made great strides, but more work needs to be done to bring about a thorough knowledge of human biology and to reduce misogyny and bullying. Students are demanding classes in dating etiquette and conflict resolution, and we must continue to push the school board to act. I began my local advocacy by pushing for comprehensive sex-ed back in 2004.
- Comprehensive HIV prevention and treatment programs.
- Increased funding for the treatment of mental illness and substance abuse, both for adults and in the schools. I’ve worked hard to increase such funding in the county.
- Increased attention paid to the unique health concerns of minorities, including African-American, Hispanic, Asian, gay and transgender women. I am honored to have managed the Reproductive Health Education and Advocacy (RHEA) workgroup, led by Professor Susan Wood and Senator Sharon Grosfeld, for Councilmember Trachtenberg. Early in April 2010, the workgroup presented the Montgomery County Needs Assessment to the Health and Human Services committee of the County Council.
- Funding studies on the effects of endocrine disrupting compounds, which include DES, phthalates, bisphenol A, atrazine and a host of other pesticides and plastics, on human sexuality and reproductive health. In 2007 Congress recognized the deleterious effects of phthalates in children’s toys and banned their use. In 2010 Maryland banned the sale of baby bottles and children’s cups with BPA. We can no longer afford to assume that these chemicals flooding our environment are safe. We must take adequate precautions to protect future generations.
- Providing first-class treatment, child care and legal/forensic support to victims of rape and domestic violence. The Family Justice Center in Rockville, promoted by Councilmember Trachtenberg and which opened in 2009 with the support of County Executive Leggett, has taken the lead in providing such a full-service environment. Already over 8000 families, hailing from more than 150 countries, have been treated at the Center. State law needs a serious overhaul, beginning with loosening the evidentiary standards for temporary and permanent protective orders, and confronting the issue of access of rapists to the offspring of their victims, but also expanding to include more vigorous prosecutions for sexual assault and date rape, and expanded services for the victims of those crimes.
I have lived with many of these issues, and I am fully committed to speaking out on the floor of the Assembly and in the halls of the august buildings of the state capitol.
But I will not simply speak out - I will lead by engaging those opposed to this agenda in fair and open dialogue. As a woman steeped in the words of the Bible, and having been raised in an orthodox Jewish environment, I will use my life’s experiences to continue to meet with members of faith communities to move forward in providing quality medical care to all and science education to our children while respecting everyone’s rights under the First Amendment.