Human Rights

Samphire Team
September 28, 2022
Two abortion rights protestors on a pink background

Societies ignore women’s health at their peril, usually due to bigotry and ignorance. Two recent political changes in women’s health policy have demonstrated this to the world. The introduction of menstrual leave policies in Spain has made space to accommodate women’s full participation in the workforce. Meanwhile, the United States’s Supreme Court repeal of the right to abortion access threatens to do the opposite.

In Spain,

  • People experiencing menstrual symptoms will be able to take days off of work, paid for by social security—the first time a Western European country has introduced a menstrual leave policy.
  • The Minister of Equality of Spain declared, “The days of going to work in pain are over.” If women do not have to suffer menstrual symptoms in the office, their productivity will increase (according to one study, by nine days per year) and they will be able to succeed in the workforce. Menstrual symptoms are so severe they represent the most common causes of pain for young women—outweighing any symptoms shared by both men and women, such as back pain.
  • With such significant burdens borne by people who menstruate for the sake of human reproduction, perhaps it is time for the workforce to make things easier.

Across the Atlantic,

  • A recent Supreme Court decision has repealed the federal right to abortion access.
  • Due to the undervaluing of research into women’s health and general stigmas around reproductive matters, the American populace often has trouble understanding the workings of the female reproductive system. Human pregnancy is the most complex and dangerous of any mammal, leading to “spontaneous abortion” (miscarriage) up to 50% of the time—a situation that has also been used by the law to imprison women under the charge of manslaughter. Politicians proposing recent abortion bans seem unaware of fatal conditions such as ectopic pregnancies, which occur when a fetus implants in a Fallopian tube. The fetus is no longer insulated by hostile endometrial cells, but rather has free rein to invade its host’s circulatory system. Without medical intervention in the form of an abortion, this condition, which represents one out of every fifty pregnancies, would kill.
  • Abortion restrictions frighten doctors, who often refuse to act until the would-be mother’s life is unequivocally at risk. As a result, people die. A “perfect” pregnancy is already a health risk to the mother. Exceptions for the “life of the mother” disregard the staggering lifelong health costs of many healthy pregnancies—from gum disease to chronic pain to increased risk of heart disease.
  • Even the cutoff point in these bills reveals political ignorance: many bills criminalize abortion after six weeks—barely long enough for most people to notice that they are pregnant, let alone schedule a procedure.

Today, staggering ignorance is leading American politicians to openly propose bills requiring physicians to reimplant ectopic pregnancies into the uterus (a suggestion which is physically impossible). Speaking openly about these challenges and funding their research would reduce these ignorant and life-threatening proposals. Instead of wasting time debating abortion, targeting medical research to focus specifically on women’s needs would lead to policy, products, and interventions which save lives.

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