Editor’s Note: This brilliant submission came from our reader, Kim Cherif, who is fighting the good fight in NC. Please consider supporting her and other women like her whose reproductive rights are under threat in that state with donations to Planned Parenthood Action Fund or the Center for Reproductive Rights. ~Admin Jen
Dear NC House of Representatives:
As we move closer to the House vote on House Bill 695 tomorrow morning, I wanted to take a moment to express my gratitude Although I did not vote for the majority of you, as a female resident of North Carolina, I wanted to thank you for your arduous protection of my health, as illustrated by the amendments added to this bill, which was originally designed to protect women from Sharia law—a male-dominated legal system based on a religious beliefs in which women have very few rights.
I would have liked to have seen discussion in the House late last Tuesday when you gentlemen decided that these amendments were necessary, but I had no idea that the current legislature was so interested in women’s healthcare, nor did I think you would be working past normal business hours to promote it. So while I did miss out on enjoying hearing about how much male state representatives care about women’s health, I thoroughly appreciated hearing male state senators testify to their concern about women’s health issues during the bill’s debate in the senate on Wednesday morning.
Congressmen, I applaud your concern. Abortion is one of the safest surgical procedures with complication rates much lower than many other surgical procedures and less than one-tenth the rate of complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. There are less than a handful of documented cases in the state of women dying following an abortion since it’s legalization in the 1970s, while this states sees approximately 40 deaths annually from all surgical procedures. How dedicated to women’s health you must be to begin your campaign for improving women’s health by addressing such a trivial issue! Surely this means that once you have this straightened out, you will move on to more pressing health concerns for women.
For example, our state has the 4th highest maternal death rate in the nation, with 105 women in NC dying during childbirth each year. Most of these deaths are poor women who have received substandard prenatal care. I know that you have recently restricted funding for Planned Parenthood. Certainly that was an oversight on your part, since Planned Parenthood is where most low-income women receive prenatal care and they may die or suffer serious health complications without it.
Another area you may want to focus on is violence. Over 100 women are murdered each year, the vast majority of these murders are by men in domestic situations. Surely, congressmen, you will want to increase funding for battered women’s shelters and social programs to help women in domestic violence situation. You may also want to consider stricter laws related to stalking, harassment, and battery of women.
About violent deaths of women, of the over 100 women murdered each year, half of them are killed by gunshot. That’s over 50 women dead a year by gun violence, compared to less than 1 dead a year by illegally operated and poorly regulated abortion clinics. So, you should have at least 50 times more interest in controlling gun violence. My thought would be to start with gun retailers, many of which are operating in violation of current gun legislation. Surely if more legislation can clean up and protect women from poorly regulated abortion clinics, it can help women from being shot and killed by illegally obtained weapons.
Finally, I know that mental health care is going to be very high on your list of priorities for women’s health given that over 250 women in NC die each year by suicide (that’s 250 times more women than die from botched abortions). I am convinced that the state legislature in its wisdom will reverse the recent budget cuts to state mental health facilities and agencies. So many women are dying already, surely more will die as a result to restricted access to mental care under your legislation.
In closing, let me again thank you gentlemen for your concern and attention to the healthcare needs of women. We women are forever grateful for any attention the state legislature sees fit to bestow upon our healthcare needs, however miniscule, but are hopeful that you will also address some of what most humans might think are more pressing health concerns. If you need a list of the top health issues affecting women, you might want to have a look at state data found here: http://www.schs.state.nc.us/schs/deaths/dms/2011/northcarolina.pdf.
Kim Cherif is a 44 year old mother of a five year old son and a mental health professional in NC.