The United States Capitol building

June Policy Roundup

Women's Health Policy

1. The United States Supreme Court voted to overturn Roe v. Wade

On June 24, 2022, the United States Supreme Court voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that had recognized a constitutional right to privacy and liberty regarding pregnancy. The majority opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, garnered five votes in total. Chief Justice John Roberts agreed with upholding the Mississippi law at the center of the case, but did not support overturning Roe v. Wade altogether. The court’s decision leaves the matter to the states. Follow state-level developments here.

2. HealthyWomen marked National Migraine and Headache Awareness month

June is National Migraine and Headache Awareness Month, which HealthyWomen marked with a new op-ed published in The Hill. In the op-ed, Martha Nolan, HealthyWomen senior policy advisor outlined the barriers many women face when they try to get insurance coverage for headache medications. Nolan encouraged women who experience migraine to empower themselves by learning about the condition and available treatments. She also called on Congress to pass legislation that would limit the hoops insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers make patients go through to get care.

3. HealthyWomen urged the FDA to support safe and effective Covid-19 vaccine options

On June 1, 2022, HealthyWomen submitted comments to the FDA urging the agency to approve additional safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines. The comments to the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) endorsed the idea that more vaccine options could help encourage people who have been hesitant to get vaccinated. In particular, HealthyWomen supports the approval of different types of vaccines. The first Covid-19 vaccines to be approved used mRNA technology, which has been in development for decades but is a newer format for vaccines. Based on rigorous analysis, if the FDA finds that vaccines using more traditional vaccine design are safe and effective, HealthyWomen believes that these options could ease anxiety and encourage more people to get vaccinated.

4. HealthyWomen weighed in on FDA plans to increase diversity of clinical trial participants

This month, HealthyWomen provided input to the FDA about its plans and guidance to diversify participation in clinical trials. Women and people of color have long been underrepresented in clinical trials, which means that their unique needs and responses to treatments are poorly understood. In turn, clinical care for these groups is based on research conducted disproportionately on men. As a result, treatments are not necessarily optimized or ideally suited for all patients who need them. HealthyWomen has long advocated for broader representation in clinical trials and previously expressed support for the FDA’s Office of Women’s Health core principle that sex as a biological variable should be factored into research design and analysis. Making sure women of different racial and ethnic backgrounds are adequately represented — not just included — is key to making sure there will be treatments designed for all women.

5. President Biden signed an executive order to protect transgender youth

Earlier this month, President Joe Biden signed an executive order designed to protect access to healthcare for transgender youth, prevent youth suicide, and support LGBTQ children and families. The order also clarifies that federally funded programs are not allowed to offer conversion therapy to try to change LGBTQ youth’s gender identity or sexual orientation. The order also instructed the United States Department of Health and Human Services to develop a public information campaign about conversion therapy.

6. New research shows a link between hot flashes and worse breast cancer outcomes

A new Swedish study revealed that women who experienced hot flashes while taking adjuvant hormone therapy (AHT) for breast cancer were more likely to have worse breast cancer outcomes. Women who started drugs for hot flashes within six months of starting AHT had lower disease-free survival rates at five and 10 years.

7. New research shows that infertility is associated with stroke later in life

This month, a study published in BMJ showed that infertility is associated with greater risk of stroke later in life. The study looked at women who had experienced infertility, miscarriage or stillbirth. Among more than 600,000 women in the study, those who had a history of at least three miscarriages were at greater risk of both fatal and non-fatal stroke, while women with a history of infertility had higher risk of non-fatal stroke. The authors suggest that this finding could improve stroke prevention for women with these newly identified risk factors.

8. 35% of United States counties are maternity care deserts

A new interactive map reveals that 35% of counties in the United States are maternity deserts, which means they have no hospital with obstetric care or other obstetric provider. In all, more than 2 million women of childbearing age live in these counties. The map was introduced in early spring by March of Dimes and supported by Deloitte Consulting and the Deloitte Health Equity Institute. The states with the highest percentage of maternity care desert counties include Alaska, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota and South Dakota. California, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont had the fewest. Since March, 11 U.S. hospitals and health systems have announced temporary or permanent closures of their maternity services.

9. The U.S. Senate failed to pass a law that would have protected millions of nursing women

The U.S. Senate did not pass the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act, a bill that would have ensured that working mothers who breastfeed would get paid for time spent pumping breast milk while working. The bill would have also entitled nursing parents to protections under the Fair Labor Standards Act in the event that their employer does not accommodate their needs. First introduced in 2010, this legislation got new attention because of the national baby formula shortage, which is likely to hit hardest for lower-income parents who may be more likely to work in jobs where they cannot safely pump and, therefore, must rely on formula. An estimated 9 million breastfeeding workers would have benefited.

10. Amid a maternal health crisis, the White House unveiled a new plan to improve access to care

This month, Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Illinois to speak about a new, comprehensive plan to address the maternal health crisis facing the United States, the developed nation with the highest maternal death rate. The plan includes encouragement for states to extend Medicaid coverage for postpartum women from 60 days to 12 months postpartum. The administration also seeks to improve data collection on maternal health risks and outcomes; to expand access to doulas, midwives and lactation rooms; and to create a free national maternal mental health hotline. The administration’s proposed 2023 budget includes $470 million to improve maternal healthcare and reduce maternal health disparities.