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Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Aradia and the Future of Women’s Health Care

posted by on January 3 at 12:48 PM

Amie Newman, communications director for Aradia Women’s Health Care in Seattle, has a piece in yesterday’s Reproductive Health Reality Check newsletter explaining the reasons for Aradia’s impending closure and the implications for feminist health care centers across the country.

What is “feminist health care,” you ask? According to Newman, who acknowledged the phrase “may not mean the same thing to all women,” feminists today “can agree that the feminist clinics that arose in the early 1970’s were responsible in large part for some immense gains for women.” Aradia itself was founded in 1972, before abortion was legal in the US, and was instrumental in working to secure abortion rights and provide quality health care for women.

Newman writes:

You have the feminist women’s health movement to thank if you:

* Were offered a cervical cap as a birth control option
* Had a natural childbirth
* Had your partner with you during your abortion
* Purchased an over-the-counter pregnancy test
* Participated in informed consent

With all these clear, attributable advancements, it is astonishing that so many still don’t recognize the feminist women’s health movement’s many contributions to the healthcare landscape in general and to women’s lives in particular. It’s a shame, because it seems that we may be heading toward the end of an identifiable era of great value to women in America.

The feminist women’s health movement gave birth to feminist health centers and, at its zenith in the mid-eighties, there were over 50 such centers around the United States. Over the last twenty or so years, an estimated thirty-five of those clinics have closed their doors forever. Clearly, something dramatic is happening.

Aradia focused particularly on providing abortions and other gynecological services to low-income women, the only group of US women for whom abortion is still on the rise.

Comparing private-practice abortion care to feminist health care, Carol Downer, one of the founding mothers of the feminist health care movement says, “Women go into those provider’s offices and no matter how good the medical care is they come out feeling ashamed. Not true with feminist health centers. We REALLY believe in the rights of all women that come through our doors. We treat a woman with respect. Therefore the [abortion] experience, rather than producing shame, gives her a feeling that she can go on.”

The loss of Aradia will be hard to measure in quantifiable terms. Seattle is well-served in the number of abortion providers practicing in our area, but with rising numbers of low-income women accessing abortion services in the United States, and a health care system that seems to fail our lower income fellow Americans in general, there are many questions left unanswered about the future of feminist health care.

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The sooner we kill of the non-functional US model in favor of the efficient nationalized systems used in every single developed first-world country, the better.

Posted by Will in Seattle | January 3, 2007 12:56 PM

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