By Jeane Bishop
Four years ago I helped my daughter and her friend with their National History Day project. The 10 year old girls studied Dr. Nancy Hill, a pioneer female doctor in Iowa.
The girls and I discovered that Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, (1821-1910) the first female physician in this country, became a doctor in order to help women. She wanted to give the women of her time medical care that was equivalent to the care that men received.
The idea of Blackwell becoming a physician was suggested by a friend dying of cancer, who told her, “If I could have been treated by a lady doctor, my worst sufferings would have been spared me.”
Blackwell saw that women were not getting the same care due to archaic Victorian standards of modesty that kept physicians from adequately examining a patient. Layers of clothing were preventing doctors from seeing what they needed to see in order to assess and treat their female patients. Ridiculously, even mirrors were used instead of a doctor looking directly at a female body in need of examination and diagnosis.
I thought about these things as I attended the Iowa Board of Medicine meeting on October 22nd here in Des Moines. I listened as speakers voiced concerns about an illegal practice going on in our state which allows a woman to receive medications which will kill the developing baby within her and then send her into “labor” while at home, delivering her dead baby there.
I wondered what Dr. Blackwell, suffragists Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and other of our foremothers would think of the shoddy way women in Iowa are being treated by this vending machine attitude to gynecological care.
Women that are not examined by a doctor are at an even higher risk as they may be experiencing an ectopic pregnancy or be unsure of the gestational age of their baby. Failures and complications exponentially increase when the doctor does not examine her/his patient.
These feminist foremothers worked for equality without apologies. These brave visionaries struggled for an America where women had the right to be in the workplace, school and home. They believed women did not need to sacrifice their children to be anywhere.
Stanton, the first champion of women’s suffrage and a mother of seven, said, “When you consider that women have been treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit.”
Interestingly, these women came from families involved in the abolition movement. Abolishing slavery and enfranchising women made perfect sense to these clear-thinking Americans.
What makes perfect sense to me is that the remote-control abortion system discussed at the Iowa Board of Medicine meeting victimizes women further with substandard care. Women deserve better.