(1973) The Chicago Women's Liberation Union's health programs were some of its best known and successful projects. from Womankind (September-1973)
(Editors Note: The Chicago Women's Liberation Union's health programs were some of his best known and successful projects. This article discusses the work of the Pregnancy Testing Group, the Liberation School, and the Abortion Task Force.)
The Chicago Women's Liberation Union is expanding it's health care facilities. Health care has been a priority issue for women and the Union for a long time. Our services at present provide needed help for numerous women. It is assistance that is available and inexpensive but insufficient. Each workgroup now working on health or health related projects are increasing and improving their outreach and services.
Women controlling their own bodies -- there's a lot of talk about the subject and the reasons need to be repeated. We live in a society where our role is defined by our biology. We are not going to minimize our biological function. However, it is imperative that we understanding why we should control, completely, the where, when, why and how those functions.
We do have choices we can make about how we are going to live as women but our society makes it difficult and for most women impossible to exercise the right to choose.
Health care in this country is an industry that can be compared to automobile manufacturing or the food industry. Industries operate on the economic law of supply and demand, The number of beds provided in hospitals, the number of doctors graduating, the number of technicians passing registration is all controlled by the health Industry to insure there is a smaller supply of care than demand for it. That way the profession can demand higher prices and justify poor care by say mg it is understaffed and overworked.
The attitude of medical professionals are much easier to understand when it's realized that getting through an examination and getting the is more important than first reassuring the patient in the intimidating atmosphere of the office, clinic, or hospital. But understanding the medical profession as an industry does not excuse the continued insult against us.
It is the attitude that only the doctor knows what is best for women, as well as the idea that medical information is complicated and hard to understand that has kept women so dependent and at the mercy of the profession. Medical information is complicated but it is insulting to assume that therefore women cannot understand it and by understanding it able to care for ourselves.
The workgroups relate to the everyday medical problems of women and in doing so avoid the academic hang-ups of institutionalized medicine. We don’t need to pay or be patronized by a physician who studied for years about diseases we can't even pronounce. We need good, inexpensive health care that meets our needs.
Women should know immediately that they are pregnant so that if it is economically or personally impossible to have another child something can be done about it. If an abortion has to be arranged then it can be done without causing the endangering delay that make abortions more difficult the further along a pregnancy progresses.
There are many medical disorders that can cause serious problems and lead to very expensive operations. When women know enough about their bodies and the symptoms of the disorders, a self-diagnosis and treatment would avoid having to go through such an operation.
But its difficult to get that information alone either from books or a doctor. Women, together, organizing to face the problems of getting medical information and then learning to use it, are a powerful force providing opportunities otherwise denied us pregnancy testing costs $20 when done by a doctor. The Pregnancy Testing workgroup of CWLU does it for $2. That's all the chemicals cost and it takes only 20 minutes to get the results not three days.
Information now available to us is offered in a course by the Liberation School called “Our Bodies, Ourselves". The class is available with the new Liberation School session beginning October 15, 1973, call the CWLU office to enroll.
About controlling our bodies, here's another example. Individual women have for too long a time been the victims of profiteering, illegal abortionists. The fact is that for all of society's moralizing against abortion, it (society) refuses to deal seriously with the problem unwanted and unnecessary pregnancies give to women.
Even the legalization of abortion didn't end the problems. The Chicago Board of Health recently passed some regulations that would make abortions more difficult and expensive than necessary. The Abortion Task Force has filed suit against the Board and though the courts are not the best solution we might want for stopping the Board of Health, the suit will stop the regulations.
The lawsuit when won will improve abortion service and care for all women in Chicago. This direct action was possible because women united together had the strength to act where one woman would have found it impossible against the power of the Board of Health.
In addition, the Abortion Task Force is opening an information telephone line - HERS - #328-2736. The line will start October 1, 1973, and will provide abortion information at first, then in the future, additional assistance in finding medical aid.
Establishing the line is more than just providing needed help about abortions. It is a bid for power with the clinics giving the abortions. Presently, many abortion referrals are working with clinics giving preferential referrals for percentages of the profits of the business. By operating their own line, the Task Force will have bargaining power with the clinics giving the Task Force the Opportunity to insist on good care and changes in procedure within the clinics. Just as important, the Task Force will have direct contact with women requesting abortions and then will be in a position to give moral support.
This is certainly an exciting development for the Task Force and all of us in dealing with the Health Care industry. We’re now gaining the power so long denied us. Only with such power can we effectively demand and get the changes necessary.
There is another new group forming in the union that will also be dealing with health care issues with some power. A group of women including nurses and paramedics, are in consultation with a woman doctor to work through the details of opening a clinic.
In addition to providing inexpensive quality health care, there will be education on self-help and resources for gaining experience in diagnosis and with tests and treatment. We now can see in fact, what we have hoped for -- health care that is good, inexpensive, without profit as a motive. We can now see what can really be done when we do it ourselves.