After initially agreeing to help underwrite the event, the Bush administration withdrew funding for a health conference focusing on lesbian health issues that was held last week in Washington, DC. Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) told organizers of the “Health Works” conference this summer that they would not be allocating the $75,000 initially promised, according to the Washington Post. Conference organizers were forced to raise the registration fee from $75 to $300 in order to be able to hold the conference. Kathleen DeBold, executive director of the Mautner Project, the lesbian health advocacy group that led the conference told the Post that two HHS officials said “a conference on lesbian health did not fit with Secretary Thompson’s vision.”
“The Bush administration’s withdrawl of financial resources for a women’s health conference sends the message that women’s health issues are of little concern to the present administration,” said Dr. Beth Jordan, medical director for the Feminist Majority Foundation, who attended the conference. “Tobacco addiction, alcohol use, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, cervical cancer as well as issues related to health care access strongly impact the lesbian community, just as they impact all women’s lives regardless of sexual preference.”
Studies have shown that lesbian women may smoke more, consume more alcohol, and have higher levels of body fat. Lesbian women also may have an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancers because they are less likely to have children or to use oral contraceptives. In addition, homophobia among health professionals may encourage lesbian women to avoid regular checkups, and lesbian women are less likely to have health insurance because they are often denied insurance benefits from their partners’ employers.
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