Friday, March 9, 2012

Women in the World

Hillary Clinton, Leymah Gbowee, Angelina Jolie, and Meryl Streep, via

For the last two days I've been attending sessions of the third annual Women in the World Summit, hosted by Newsweek & The Daily Beast at Lincoln Center.

The lineup has been staggering, with panels on subjects like women in combat, forced marriage, and reproductive rights. Today, Nancy Pelosi spoke up about the latter subject. In the context of the conference, I couldn't help but feel that as other places around the world are waking up to women's rights, in the U.S. we seem to be backsliding.

During my pregnancy I've been incredibly grateful to have fantastic health care, thanks to my husband's employee benefits. But I was recently speaking to a self-employed friend who has minimal coverage. Each of her prenatal appointments costs her hundreds of dollars out of pocket. She has been debating whether or not to get a nuchal translucency scan, not because she disagrees with genetic screening, but because the test will cost her so much. When she experienced unexplained bleeding, she was reluctant to go to the doctors. She can't change health insurance carriers because her pregnancy is considered to be a pre-existing condition.

All told, she is one of the lucky ones.

There are women around the world who don't even have access to the level of prohibitively expensive, rock-and-a-hard-place care my friend has. While I may worry about whether or not I will need to have a C-section or how best to parent, many pregnant women face the very real worry that they might die in childbirth.

Mine was a planned for, hoped for pregnancy. And at 33, in a secure financial position, I am still in awe of the responsibility and transition that motherhood will bring. I can't fathom that decision being forced upon me at 18 or 20 years old because I couldn't afford contraception. I can't fathom having to choose between paying for housing or having a sonogram to check on the health of my baby. And no woman should have to.

So I commend Tina Brown (my former boss) and the other hosts of Women in the World for holding this topic, and so many others, up to the light.

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