The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the U.S. Constitution outlaws any and all governmental discrimination based on gender. Congress passed the ERA in 1972. But congressional approval is just the first step in amending the Constitution.
Amendments require ratification by three-fourths of the states before they become a working part of our Constitution. That means 38 states must ratify the ERA before it becomes binding law.
Finally, on January 15th of this year, Virginia became the 38th state. It only took 48 years. Sadly, Virginia’s decision does not seal the amendment’s addition to the United States Constitution
There are many examples of discrimination against women in healthcare
The time for the eradication of discrimination against women in America has long since passed. And that fact is vividly demonstrated in the field of healthcare. The United States’ healthcare system still generates far too many examples of unfair gender bias and discrimination.
Under existing law, some corporations can discriminate against women by refusing to provide health insurance coverage for FDA-approved contraceptives – a key part of women’s reproductive health– in employee health policy.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to challenges women can in America’s health system.
Heart disease is the number one cause of women’s death
It’s no secret that heart failure is the number one cause of women’s death. A recent report from cardiology researchers at Cedars-Sinai found that women are almost twice as likely to die from a heart attack than are men.
But only 40% of women’s routine health services include a heart risk examination.
Gender bias persists in medical research, too. It is an undisputed fact that there are many significant biological gender differences between men and women. Yet research continues to be performed primarily upon male subjects.
In 1993, Congress mandated adequate inclusion of women in government-sponsored clinical trials. Clinical trials sponsored by the National Institutes of Health are required to include female subjects. But those funded by private medical companies are still exempt from such requirements.
In 2014, the director of the NIH’s office of women’s health research told the New York Times that, “We literally know less about every aspect of female biology compared to male biology.”
Today 83% of obstetrics and gynecology medical students are women
In 2016, Allison Herbst, a resident physician in internal medicine at Emory University in Georgia, published an article in the Washington Post. Dr. Herbst expressed her surprise upon learning that, according to the American Medical Association, only 12% of internal medicine, 1% of surgical, and 22% of obstetrics and gynecology department chairs are women. This despite the fact 83% of obstetrics and gynecology medical students are women.
The differences between medical care for men and women
Research on the differences between the medical treatment that women and men receive is growing. And the results are disturbing.
Healthcare professionals prescribe less post-surgical pain medication to women than to men, even though women report higher levels of pain. And women in an emergency room setting wait significantly longer before receiving pain medication than men do.
Women are far more likely to be told by medical practitioners that their health issues are “psychosomatic” or caused by emotional distress, rather than by a physiological source. In a survey of more than 2,000 female patients suffering from chronic pain, 83% said they had experienced gender discrimination from their healthcare providers.
According to Amy Miller, president of the Society for Women’s Health Research, it’s common for women, particularly for women with pelvic and menstrual pain caused by conditions such as endometriosis and fibroids, to be told that their pain is just a normal part of being a woman.
Female doctors continue to persevere and provide excellent care
Amidst all this overt and subliminal gender bias, female physicians continue to persevere and provide excellent care. The Harvard School of Public Health recently reported that patients treated by female physicians have a lower mortality rate and are less likely to be readmitted for additional treatment than patients treated by male physicians.
Female doctors were found to be more patient-centered, encouraging, and reassuring. They communicated better and spent more time with their patients than did their male colleagues.
The authors of the Harvard study estimated that approximately 32,000 fewer patient deaths would occur if male physicians were able to achieve the same outcomes as female physicians.
These are some of the reasons that I support the passage of the ERA. Its ratification will be an overdue but welcome advance in the struggle against unfair discrimination against women in America.
About Dr. Thaïs Aliabadi
As one of the nation’s leading OB-GYNs, Dr. Thaïs Aliabadi offers the very best in gynecological and obstetric care. Together with her warm professional team, Dr. Aliabadi supports women through all phases of life. She fosters a special one-on-one relationship between patient and doctor.
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