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#258: Health Care’s Gender Bias

I cannot write fast enough to keep up with the restrictions that are being applied to women’s health care in the US.
Marilyn Metzl writes: (2017. A Womb of Her Own. Routledge) “In 2014, conservatives began a move to cut off US government aid to Planned Parenthood on the grounds that it was funneling taxpayer money to facilitate abortions. The Congressional Budget Office found the one-year defunding would produce about $235 million in federal savings. But Michael Hiltzik (2015), writing in the Los Angeles Times, states that that amount is barely a rounding error, “but that the real costs would be borne by low-income and rural women.” Hiltzik writes. “As many as 650,000 women, chiefly in low-income neighborhoods or communities without access to other health care clinics, would lose at least some access to care. The measure would hamper Planned Parenthood’s ability to provide low-income women with contraceptive education and counseling; pregnancy diagnosis and counseling; cervical and breast cancer screening; and education, testing, and referral services associated with sexually transmitted diseases. Several thousand unwanted pregnancies and births would occur.
In early 2015, the Susan B. Komen Foundation for the Cure, the leading US breast cancer charity, also contributed to the restriction of women’s reproductive and health rights by deciding to sever ties with Planned Parenthood. They planned to eliminate $680,000 in grants to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screenings and education programs. Later, swayed by public opinion they reversed their decision.”
We know that beneath the current political turmoil, the assault on Planned Parenthood continues.
Metzl continues: “These lapses in humane medical treatment for women go beyond denying normal preventive health measures. Imagine the social outcry if owners of female dogs or cats ignored their pets’ yelps of pain and if veterinarians consistently undertreated for animals’ medical conditions. Yet women’s pain and symptoms are routinely ignored and undertreated. In their research study, Diane E. Hoffmann and Anita J. Tarzian, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law (Hoffman and Tarzian 1995, 13-27.), concluded that women experience and report more frequent and greater pain than man. Yet they are more likely to be less well treated than men for their painful symptoms. The reason? The literature points to gender-based biases regarding women’s pain experiences. Hoffman and Tarzian write: “These biases have led health-care providers to discount women’s self-reports of pain at least until there is objective evidence for the pain’s cause. Medicine’s focus on objective factors and its cultural stereotypes of women combine insidiously, leaving women at greater risk for inadequate pain relief and continued suffering. Greater awareness among health-care providers of this injustice, a readjustment of medicine’s preoccupation with objective factors through education about alternative approaches, and scrutiny by quality and ethical reviewers within health-care institutions are necessary to change health-care providers’ behavior and ensure that women’s voices regarding treatment of their pain are heard.”
The assault on women’s access to health care reflects an insidious attack on women’s rights and well-being. It augments male dominance by affirming yet again that the health and well-being of women are not worthy to be accorded the same consideration as that of men.

#258: Health Care’s Gender Bias

Ellen Toronto, Ph.D.

Dr. Ellen Toronto is a licensed clinical psychologist/psychoanalyst in the state of Michigan.

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APA Reference
Toronto, E. (2017). #258: Health Care’s Gender Bias. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 31, 2020, from


Last updated: 21 Aug 2017
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