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Ten Women’s Health Heroes Who Inspired Us in 2013

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Gwen Moore

Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) has been a longstanding champion of reproductive freedom during her time in office, and made national headlines last year for disclosing the details of her own sexual assault while advocating for the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). She’s also repeatedly blasted anti-choice activists for attempting to use race as a wedge in the abortion debate.

This year, Moore has continued to sponsor legislation to advance women’s health, and she’s had no patience for opponents of reproductive health and autonomy. After the House of Representatives passed a national 20-week abortion ban in June, Moore took to the floor to slam the right-wing talking points on the scientifically-disputed notion of fetal pain. “This bill is an abomination! Plain and simple, at its foundation, at its heart, is utter disrespect for the dignity and health of women,” she said. “Now we have a bill that is born of ignorance and disregard for medical science in every way, shape, and form — no concern for the biology, physiology, sociology of the woman.”

Moore has also sharply criticized the craft chain Hobby Lobby for filing a lawsuit against Obamacare’s birth control mandate, a case that’s making its way to the Supreme Court. “I am very confident that the Supreme Court will rule on the side of women… I mean, enough already,” she said last month. “Women’s health is not some arts and craft project.”

Katelyn Campbell

After her public school hosted a mandatory abstinence education assembly — during which a conservative speaker allegedly told students “if you take birth control, your mother probably hates you” and “I could look at any one of you in the eyes right now and tell if you’re going to be promiscuous” — Katelyn Campbell stepped up to say something. The West Virginia teen believed that religious-based, slut-shaming assemblies didn’t belong in her public school, so she filed a complaint with the ACLU. Even after Campbell’s principal threatened her, she refused to back down.

Campbell’s activism inspired people across the country. Strangers started petitions in her honor, students advocated at board meetings on her behalf, and Wellesley College — where Campbell had already been accepted — issued public statements of support. “I feel like I’ve been given an opportunity here to make a change,” Campbell explained to ThinkProgress in April. “No one should have to feel alone or afraid of repercussions for doing the right thing. If I was able to succeed in the socially conservative state of West Virginia, then anyone can.”

Campbell is currently taking classes at Wellesley, and continues to advocate for better reproductive health policies in her home state. She recently spoke out against imposing harsh restrictions on West Virginia’s abortion clinics.

Tamesha Means

Tamesha Means is taking on one of the most powerful institutions in the world — the Catholic Church. With the help of the ACLU, Means is suing the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for failing to provide adequate reproductive health services in its religious hospitals. It’s a first-of-its-kind lawsuit, going straight after the Bishops for the consequences of their anti-abortion policies rather than suing an individual hospital for negligence.

Means’ water broke when she was 18 weeks pregnant, and she was rushed to the closest hospital for emergency care. But, since that hospital is Catholic-affiliated, it didn’t tell Means that abortion was an option to end her doomed pregnancy. She was repeatedly told there was nothing that doctors could do, and was sent away several times in pain. Eventually, she developed an infection, and finally delivered a premature child that died within hours of birth.

“I was in terrible pain,” Means explained in a recent interview with the Washington Post. “I was tired. I was frustrated. I still had no answers as to why they did nothing to help me, why they didn’t go ahead and induce my labor when they knew my baby wasn’t going to make it. They left me in pain for those days.” Depending on the outcome of her legal challenge, she could help spare other women from undergoing similar painful experiences.

Julie Burkhart

In April, Julie Burkhart re-opened the clinic that used to house Dr. George Tiller’s former practice. Thanks to Burkhart, the women who live in Wichita have access to abortion services for the first time since Tiller was gunned down in 2009. It hasn’t been an easy road, though, as anti-choice activists have done everything in their power to prevent the new clinic from opening to the public. Burkhart has been subject to personal harassment; protesters have picketed outside her home and distributed flyers referring to her as a “killer.” In April, an anti-choice activist was even caught on tape suggesting that it would a “blessing to the babies” if Burkhart was shot, just like her predecessor.

Burkhart ended up tightening the security at her clinic. But she’s stood firm, repeatedly speaking out about Wichita women’s right to accessible reproductive care.

“A year and a half after we lost Dr. Tiller, we were really able to say, ‘Okay, this is going to be hard, this is going to be challenging — probably the biggest challenge of our lives — but we’re going to get this done,’ ” Burkhart told Mother Jones in February. “Here we live in a pretty good-sized city, Wichita, with a metropolitan area of around 650,000 people. It’s like really, come on. We’re a town that used to have three abortion clinics. Shouldn’t we be able to have at least one ob-gyn practice that offers abortion care? We realized we just needed to pick up the torch and do it.”

Doug Cox

As a male Republican legislator from a red state that’s particularly hostile to women’s health, Rep. Doug Cox (R-OK) may seem like a strange addition to this list. But Cox, who is a practicing physician, has done his part to stand up against persistent attacks on reproductive freedom. In May, Cox published an op-ed sharply criticizing his colleagues for pushing so many abortion restrictions that intrude women’s private lives. “What happened to the Republican Party that I joined? The party where conservative presidential candidate Barry Goldwater felt women should have the right to control their own destiny?” Cox lamented. “What happened to the Republican Party that felt that the government has no business being in an exam room, standing between me and my patient?”

The GOP lawmaker isn’t afraid to speak out against proposed abortion restrictions in Oklahoma — pointing out that abortion is already a safe medical procedure, and additional legislation to make it more inaccessible will ultimately force women to seek out illegal alternatives. “We keep passing stuff like this, they’ll be done in back alleys with coat hangers, people,” he pointed out in February.

Cox was the recipient of Planned Parenthood’s Barry Goldwater Award this year, an annual recognition of an outstanding public official in the Republican Party who has demonstrated a commitment to women’s health issues. The national organization pointed out that Cox has argued against more than 160 anti-choice measures during his time in the state house.

This post was originally published in ThinkProgress

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Photo Credits: Lucy Flores via Twitter, Lucy Flores, CNN via Duane Lester, NAACP, runnerallen2004, Amazingnewzdaily, Gwen Moore, The Young Turks, ACLU, TrustWomen PAC, Oklahoma State Legislature

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5:34PM PST on Jan 21, 2014


5:22AM PST on Dec 24, 2013


4:44AM PST on Dec 24, 2013

OK. Thanks for sharing.

7:03PM PST on Dec 23, 2013

You mean 10 American Health heroes who inspired Americans. I've never heard of them.

1:50PM PST on Dec 23, 2013


6:33AM PST on Dec 23, 2013

Great article thanks - all these people are heroes!

5:11AM PST on Dec 23, 2013

So much respect for these people. Thank you for everything!

4:38AM PST on Dec 23, 2013

Very inspiring indeed. Thanks for sharing.

4:28AM PST on Dec 23, 2013


2:01AM PST on Dec 23, 2013

Thanks for the info.

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