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Debra L. Ness Headshot

A Day for the History Books on Women's Health

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There are some important dates for American women to remember and teach to our daughters:

  • 1848: The first women's rights convention is held in Seneca Falls, New York, calling for equal treatment of women and men under the law
  • 1916: Jeannette Rankin is the first woman elected to Congress
  • 1920: The 19th amendment is ratified, affirming women's right to vote
  • 1932: Hattie Wyatt Caraway is the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate
  • 1968: Shirley Chisholm becomes the first African American woman elected to Congress
  • 1972: Title IX is approved, opening doors for women in athletics
  • 1973: The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Roe v. Wade, affirming women's right to privacy
  • 1981: Sandra Day O'Connor becomes the first woman to join the Supreme Court
  • 1984: Geraldine Ferraro becomes the first woman named to a national ticket
  • 1993: President Clinton makes the Family and Medical Leave Act the first bill he signs into law

Now, add to that August 1, 2012, the day when American women finally won free access to the kind of preventive care that keeps us healthy, prevents costly and often-deadly conditions like cancer and detects such diseases in their earliest stages when they can be cured.

The Affordable Care Act now ensures that new insurance plans cover preventive health care without cost sharing requirements, such as co-pays, that for too long have put these critical services out of reach for so many women.

No longer will women go without birth control because they cannot afford the co-pays.

No longer will women go without the HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infection screening and testing they urgently need.

No longer will cost prevent pregnant women from being tested for gestational diabetes.

No longer will cost prevent new mothers from getting the counseling, support and supplies they need to breastfeed their infants and give them a healthier start in life.

And, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, no longer will girls and women at risk for domestic violence go without potentially life-saving screening and counseling.

And to all this, I say: "It's about time."

Yet all of these common sense, life and money-saving advances continue to be threatened by a stubborn minority who somehow think walking backwards is progress. Since President Obama signed the health care law, the House of Representatives has voted more than 30 times to repeal all or part of it - including specific votes to roll back these very benefits. And now some in the Senate are attempting to repeal the law.

Despite these efforts, the health care law is already helping millions of women. Already, the Affordable Care Act has covered women's annual breast exams, mammograms and pap tests at no cost. Older women with Medicare are saving money on prescription drugs and have the opportunity to sit down with their doctors every year to talk about their health and how to stay healthy. And in 16 short months, when the rest of the law kicks in, millions of women will have access to affordable coverage that has, until now, been out of reach. Women will no longer face exclusions due to diseases they have fought and defeated like breast cancer. And women will no longer be charged higher premiums than men simply because of our gender.

The Affordable Care Act is the greatest advance for women's health in a generation. Let's make sure it stays on the books and in the history books.