What the hell is happening with the American medical/healthcare/government/industrial complex (!$%$x$%!) and its amplified assault on the females of our human species in recent weeks?
Last time I looked, women still outnumbered men in our country. And almost all of us had biological mothers, who were women, far as I know. Many of us have sisters and daughters and aunts and nieces, and many or most of us men have wives, girlfriends, female friends and on and on.
For the sake and in the defense of all of those women and girls whom we care about, whoever we and they are, it's time to stop and smell the stench of something rotten stuck in the jaws of the machinery of American society - something we'd all better stop and consider spitting back out at the powers that be, rather than digesting with grumbling complacency like so many other questionable paradigm shifts we've been asked to suck up and accept over the years.
The shift in question here is all about entrenched vested interests in positions of power, mostly men, reaching conclusions, making decisions and issuing edicts that have everything to do with nothing less than the power of life and death over all the girls and women we all know and love.
It started with the decision by our United States House of Representatives to pass landmark health reform legislation recently which included an amendment that will likely in the medium to long run, if enacted by the entire congress and signed into law, become a generalized ban on insurance coverage for abortions - or put another way, a rejection of the principal that every individual female, in coordination with her loved ones, should have the right to reproductive choice that includes the very safest level of institutionalized, insured care.
And if any anti-abortion advocates happen to be reading this, and believe that this issue has more to do with "protecting" the much-debated "life" to be of the unborn than it has to do with the preserving the life of the Living woman or girl in question, then I ask you this: If your wife or your daughter is raped and impregnated as a result of being raped, do you want to have to go to the yellow pages to look for a discreet and affordable abortion option?
So don't tell me you are "pro-life" unless and until you are ready to answer that question in an absolute heartbeat, without doubt. And doubt is what it's all about, if you'd just admit it, instead of letting manipulative power-seekers talk you into believing that such a fundamental human freedom of the Living is anything other than that.
But enough about that, for now. Because the recent congressional cave-in - the provision in the House version of the healthcare blll that prohibits women from receiving insurance coverage for abortions in any federally-funded public health plan - was just the opening of a three-act drama that raises serious questions about what the bloody hell is going on these days on women's health issues.
Not long after the House health bill travesty, along came the startling, confounding announcement from something called the United States Preventive Services Task Force - that women who for years in this age of rampant breast cancer affliction and death have been told to give themselves regular self-examinations and from the age of forty forward have been advised to get regular mammogram screenings - that these women should now wait another whole decade, until the age of fifty, to start getting the test. And oh, by the way, the folks at Preventive Services also announced that breast self-examinations are predominantly a waste of time and can be discontinued.
Yes, the "Task Force" had its data and statistics to refer to. Fine. There is also plenty of other information out there, from the scientific and data-driven to the painfully personal and anecdotal, facts and stories and human dramas and tragedies that suggest that the lives of thousands of women under the age of 50 are still being saved by self-examinations, and mammograms.
It remains unclear whether or not these new recommendations will lead to health insurance companies retreating from mammogram coverage until women reach age 50. But based on what we know of the private, for-profit health insurance industry these days, what would your guess be?
Even if you do choose to side with the data underlying these new recommendations, I would ask you once again to take the truest test of all before making up your mind on this, and question whether or not you want your own wife or daughter or mother or sister or female friend to take a carefree "wait and see" approach on breast cancer until the age of 50.
Then there is the damning third act in this scary melodrama. Just days after the announcement of the new breast health recommendations, something called the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued new advice on how often women should receive pap smears, the screening test for cervical cancer - and surprise, surprise, the word from ACOG is that teenagers who are not sexually active don't need the test at all; women in their 20's should get the test every two years instead of annually; and women in their thirties and older should have the test only every three years.
Again, there is evidence that supports this decision, on a purely statistical basis. And there is evidence that indicates that teenage and young women's lives are also sometimes saved by the earlier or more regular screenings. A last time in this space, I'd ask you, do these new guidelines demonstrate the kind of vigilance you'd want to show in protecting the younger and older women that you know and love from a potential killer, no matter how statistically unlikely their particular bracket may be of being victims?
As is the case with the underlying data driving the new advice for mammograms, the evidence on pap smears and cervical cancer has everything to do with the overall numbers, with the percentages of cancers detected by the screenings at certain ages and intervals, with just how many lives are saved in each category. Whether it's breast cancer or cervical cancer, it's all about actuarial number-crunching, all about cost-benefit analysis, and all about prospective cost-benefit ratios and profit margins for whatever the future "reformed" healthcare and health insurance industries look like.
It would be all too easy to get paranoid, conspiracy-seeking and downright Palinesque anti-government about this whole series of events, taking these issues and mixing them together in a tidy tea bag, if you will, claiming that the current federal government is all about preparing to ration healthcare.