Redefining Healthcare for Women


As the dust settles on the Komen Foundation decisions of last week, I am reminded once again how compartmentalized and politicized the notion of women’s health has become.  Boobs and wombs seem to represent the sum total of interest in women’s health.  And if the Komen fiasco is any indication, one can’t care about both, because where one stands or one’s employer stands on reproductive issues is now becoming the litmus test that permits or denies access to care. If you are a woman, that is. No such criteria exist in men’s health.

Women’s health is inherently political. We carry the responsibility of continuing the species. With that responsibility inevitably comes intrusion (no pun intended). We seem to forget, however, that women have cancer (not just breast), heart disease, diabetes, immune diseases and the whole host of illnesses that are unrelated to whether or not we bear children. Certainly, whether we have born children impacts these diseases, more so than many are willing to admit, but what we think about birth has nothing to do with our health and should have nothing do with our access to healthcare.

As a private organization, Komen has every right to change its mission. It has every right to fund only those organizations that align with their political or religious views. If it believes strongly in those views, then it should change its mission and hold to it.  However, Komen should be prepared for mass defunding from those who don’t share the same ideology. Early signs of this were evident last week.

There is no delicate or politically adroit way around this issue for Komen and other organizations who believe that views on reproductive rights trump a woman’s access to healthcare or an agency’s access to research funding. If that is the litmus test, however, then say so. Take the stand and own the results. Tell the world that your organization provides preventative healthcare, supports breast cancer research and other activities only for some women and only for organizations that share your views.

Then let the rest of us get on with the business of providing healthcare and research for all women.

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Chandler Marrs, PhD

Chandler Marrs MS, MA, PhD spent the last dozen years in women’s health research with a focus on steroid neuroendocrinology and mental health. She has published and presented several articles on her findings. As a graduate student, she founded and directed the UNLV Maternal Health Lab, mentoring dozens of students while directing clinical and Internet-based research. Post graduate, she continued at UNLV as an adjunct faculty member, teaching advanced undergraduate psychopharmacology and health psychology (stress endocrinology). Dr. Marrs received her BA in philosophy from the University of Redlands; MS in Clinical Psychology from California Lutheran University; and, MA and PhD in Experimental Psychology/ Neuroendocrinology from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.


  1. Komen foundation totally lost its way, very little of the money goes to cancer research or patients and they have become a mouth piece against women

  2. Yes, there has been quite of lot of discontent about Komen for some time now. In October one of our guest bloggers wrote an open letter to Mrs. Brinker.

    As with many organizations, success in fundraising and particularly who the funds are raised from, can and does impact the direction of the organization, often negatively, in much the same way lobbyist influence politicians.

  3. Agreed. Great article.

    Prevention takes research, different types of diagnostics and a more holistic approach to health. More importantly, it would take some recognition that what we put into the environment and into our bodies determines health or disease. Perhaps more cynically, cancer is big business.

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