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Women's health refers to health issues specific to human female anatomy. These often relate to structures such as female genitalia and breasts or to conditions caused by hormones specific to, or most notable in, females. Women's health issues include menstruation, contraception, maternal health, child birth, menopause and breast cancer. They can also include medical situations in which women face problems not directly related to their biology, for example gender-differentiated access to medical treatment.
Women's health is an issue which has been taken up by many feminists, especially where reproductive health is concerned. Women's health is positioned within a wider body of knowledge cited by, amongst others, the World Health Organisation, which places importance on gender as a social determinant of health.
Some health and medical research advocates, particularly the Society for Women's Health Research in the United States, define women's health more broadly than issues specific to human female anatomy to include areas where biological sex differences between women and men exist. Research has demonstrated significant biological differences between the sexes in rates of susceptibility, symptoms and response to treatment in many major areas of health, including heart disease and some cancers. The social view of health combined with the acknowledgement that gender is a social determinant of health inform women's health service delivery in countries around the world. Women's health services such as Leichhardt Women's Community Health Centre which was established in 1974 and was the first women's health centre established in Australia is an example of women's health approach to service delivery.
Issues in reproductive health
One example of this is the Cartwright Inquiry in New Zealand, in which research by two feminist journalists revealed that women with cervical abnormalities were not receiving treatment, as part of an experiment. The women were not told of the abnormalities and several later died. In many countries feminists have campaigned for the right to legal and safe abortion, arguing that it is a health rather than a moral issue. In countries where contraception is difficult to access, campaigns for readily available contraception are conducted on the same lines. Conversely, there have also been campaigns against potentially dangerous forms of contraception such as defective IUDs.
Even in affluent countries like the United States, women's reproductive health is neglected. For example, in Arizona, conservative members of the state legislature have in the recent decade continuously introduced bills that restrict information about and access to reproductive health. These measures are much to the discontent of many citizens, but Arizona is a majority conservative state. The prominent bills restricting sexual education, contraception, and abortion include:
Senate Bill 1309 (2010)
Requires parental consent for any sex education given to a child in school
Senate Bill 1009 (2012)
Schools are required to promote adoption and rearing the child over abortion
House Bill 2625 (2012)
Would have allowed religious employers or those with moral obligations to remove covering birth control for employees' health insurance
Would have required a woman using birth control for reasons other pregnancy prevention to have submitted proof of a medical condition
House Bill 2564 (2009)
Requires minors to have a notarized parental signature for abortion
Requires 24-hour waiting period after initial visit
Permits nurse practitioners from performing 1st trimester surgical abortions
Allows any healthcare worker to refuse information or access to abortion care and birth control
Senate Bill 1030 (2011)
Permits nurse practitioners and physician's assistants from dispensing abortion-by-pill
House Bill 2416 (2011)
Requires one-hour waiting period after ultrasound before abortion procedure
Abortion-by-pill cannot be administered via telemedicine