HER-story of Shutdown and Women’s Health

AAUW staff at Planned Parenthood

AAUW staff at Planned Parenthood

October 04, 2013

One of the ways I make Congress seem less infuriating is by learning about its history. Partisanship making it difficult to get things done? Well, at least representatives are no longer hitting each other with canes in the middle of the Capitol. Congress doesn’t like what Attorney General Holder or other appointees are doing? Well, at least they’re not challenging each other to a duel, Burr-Hamilton style.

So I went and looked up what happened during previous government shutdowns. As it turns out, the government has “shut down” 17 times — and four of the 17 times (three times in 1977, once in 1979), a disagreement about women’s health care was responsible.

A woman at a rally holds a sign that reads, "Trust Women."

At the We Won’t Go Back Ohio rally, AAUW members stood up for women’s health.


I mean, I know former Missouri congressman Todd Akin thinks women’s bodies have special ways to shut that pregnancy by rape thing down, but I didn’t know some extreme representatives believed debate over our lady parts should shut down the whole federal government. This big, complicated operation, which builds roads, maintains national parks, keeps the peace, explores space, and keeps people safe, can apparently be brought to a halt by disagreement over how women receive health care.


I shouldn’t be surprised. It was just last Saturday that the House of Representatives passed legislation that would deny women access to preventive health care if their employers had a religious or moral objection. (See how your representative voted.) Surprisingly, there was no provision to cut off men’s preventive care. So prostate exams are completely OK, but potentially life-saving cancer screenings for women need an employer’s permission? Again, I say, really?

There are many things that went into current shutdown, but it’s clear to me that women’s health is a big part of it. The Affordable Care Act expands access to affordable health care to millions of women who didn’t have it before (heck, they didn’t have that access last month!). What we’re seeing now is just one more attempt to make women’s health a political negotiating chip, and we’re not having it. Tell Congress to do its job.

Beth Scott By:   |   October 04, 2013


  1. […] health exchanges authorized by the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”) opened.  A post on the AAUW blog today had some interesting insight into how the current government shut-down has something in common with […]

  2. […] HER-story of Shutdown and Women’s Health, by Beth Scott, AAUW […]

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