October 2, 2013

How the Government Shutdown Affects Women’s Health

The federal government shutdown is expected to have wide-ranging consequences on the health of women and their families.

Before we get to the bad news, an important reminder: Enrollment for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act is *not* being blocked by the shutdown.

Go to healthcare.gov to learn more about your options and to enroll. If you need additional information, Raising Women’s Voices and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health both have resources that explain more about healthcare benefits for women under the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare (yes, as Jimmy Kimmel demonstrated, they’re one and the same).

Now, here are the negative consequences:

- The WIC program that provides nutrition for women, infants, and children will not be able to take on new people and may run out of money to provide food assistance.

- Likewise, the Administration for Community Living will not be able to fund programs in Senior Nutrition, Native American Nutrition and Supportive Services, Prevention of Elder Abuse and Neglect, and Protection and Advocacy for persons with developmental disabilities.

- Federal websites that provide health information to consumers, like womenshealth.gov and MedlinePlus, are not being updated during the shutdown. The longer the shutdown continues, the more likely it is that these sites will have information that is no longer current.

- Researchers trying to answer questions about women’s health are also affected, meaning important research databases on medical topics may not be fully updated or updated at all.

- Clinical trials from the National Institutes of Health will not be able to accept new patients, possibly delaying important new discoveries in health.

- The FDA will be unable to support the majority of its food safety, nutrition, and cosmetics reviews. While the agency is expected to continue managing emergencies and high-risk situations, it will not have the resources to deal with some inspections and less urgent product alerts.

- In addition, those who may have delays in their paychecks and benefits – and other services – are hit directly, potentially making it harder for them to attend to their own health and that of their families.

Republicans tried to make restrictions on women’s preventive health care– including contraception coverage – a condition of not shutting down the government. As Cecile Richards writes, “The country wants Congress to focus on jobs and the economy, not on pushing an extreme agenda against women’s access to health care.”

And we really don’t want to bargain away our health.


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