Here are some of the things we know about Jewish women’s health:
- 10% of Jewish women of Ashkenazi (central or eastern European) descent carry the BRCA1/2 gene mutation, which means an increased risk of breast and/or ovarian cancer.
- 1 in 40 Jews will get pancreatic cancer, a higher number than the general population.
- Mental illness is stigmatized in Jewish communities, including eating disorders, manic depression, bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia (which might also have a genetic connection for Ashkenazi Jews).
In addition to these health issues that particularly impact Jewish women, there’s also heart disease, osteoporosis, colon cancer, and other diseases affecting women in general. And all of these can be prevented, or at least caught early, when folks are able to access mammograms, well-woman exams (services Planned Parenthood makes affordable), physicals, and other screenings, all of which are covered under the Affordable Care Act. Mental health care, including evaluation and inpatient treatment, are also often covered, depending on what plan you have.
The A.C.A. is still in effect, as of this writing. If you are currently getting your health insurance from the A.C.A., get all the health care you can possibly get now, especially if you have a pre-existing condition. See if your gynecologist, primary care physician, psychiatrist and other medical practitioners will write you prescriptions which you can fill now, before you need them (i.e. one that will last for six months, so you can see them only twice a year).
In addition, we can support each other—sharing resources that enable folks to get the care they need, and that includes stockpiling male and female condoms, Plan B, pregnancy tests, and other reproductive and sexual health supplies that will be necessary if Planned Parenthood is defunded (and are necessary now). Support abortion funds, which help people who need abortion afford them, as well as the costs associated with them.
And finally, join the fight to keep the A.C.A. If you or your loved ones use it, call your elected officials, tell them what it’s meant for your health, and urge them to defend it. Encourage your friends, family and congregation to do the same, and learn the facts about the A.C.A. and the Republican plan to change it. Stories are a powerful tool, so tell yours. Your health, and the health of millions of others, will depend on it.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Lilith Magazine.