Exclusive: Kamala Harris Introduces Bill On Uterine Fibroids

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Sen. Kamala Harris is introducing a bill today to provide new funding for research and education on uterine fibroids, Refinery29 exclusively reports. New York Rep. Yvette Clarke, who has shared her own experience with having surgery as a result of fibroids, has led companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives. July is Fibroids Awareness Month.
Uterine fibroids are usually non-cancerous growths that affect an estimated 26 million people in the U.S., and they are the leading cause for hysterectomies. Black women develop them earlier, have larger and greater numbers of fibroids, and experience more severe symptoms than white women.
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"Millions of women across the country are affected by uterine fibroids, which can present serious health complications," Sen. Harris told Refinery29. "Complications from uterine fibroids can lead to maternal mortality and morbidity, an ongoing crisis especially for Black women. We have an opportunity to change that with the Uterine Fibroids Research and Education Act. I’m proud to work with Congresswoman Clarke to ensure that women get the care, support, and knowledge they need."
There is a serious lack of education about the condition, despite the fact that it is incredibly common — most women will get them by the time they're 50 — exacerbated by the fact that Black women are less likely to have their pain and symptoms taken seriously by doctors. Many people with fibroids have no symptoms, but others experience pelvic pain, anemia, miscarriages, infertility, and heavy bleeding. These issues can significantly interfere with the sufferer's quality of life, and can lead to more severe health issues.
"This bill is an important first step towards making women’s healthcare a priority by addressing uterine fibroids," Rep. Clarke told Refinery29. "Many women who suffer from uterine fibroids have their condition go undiagnosed as a result of a lack of education about the disease. Each year, approximately 7 million women in the U.S. suffer the symptoms of fibroids and an estimated 330,000 symptomatic women reside in New York. This disease has ravaged the lives of women across the country, and increasing funding for research and public education related to fibroids is critical to reversing that trend. If we are serious about fixing inequities in our healthcare system, then we must treat uterine fibroids with the funding and attention it deserves."
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The proposed bill would: provide $30 million annually from 2021 to 2025 to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to expand uterine fibroids research, create a uterine fibroids public education program through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), expand and improve data collection on which groups are affected by uterine fibroids, and more.
The bill is supported by the Black Women’s Health Imperative, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the National Association of Nurse Practitioners, the Fibroid Foundation, and many other organizations.
One of those organizations is The White Dress Project, which provides fibroid awareness, raises funds for research, and supports those who are managing life with fibroids.
Jennifer Branison, 31, a former White Dress Project board member, was rushed to the ER when she was 23 with severe lower abdominal pain that turned out to be fibroids. She said the condition has forced her to think about family planning before she was necessarily ready to.
"While my peers were getting jobs and setting up their career paths, I was at the doctor's office forced to make different life decisions that would not only affect my health in the present but in the distant future," she wrote.
"After months of hormone therapy, a ruptured cyst, job loss, debilitating migraines, a spinal tap, a blood patch, and a second opinion, I had a myomectomy to remove a fibroid that had grown to 6 cm in September 2013. It was during that surgery that I was also diagnosed with a moderate form of endometriosis," she added. Since then, some of her fibroids have come back.
"My diagnoses were unfortunate, but it has sparked a journey that has enabled me to put my health first," Branison wrote. "To be my own advocate. To fight relentlessly for my options. And to ultimately choose me."

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