Embarrassingly, the Alliance for a Just Society gave Washington State a “C+” in a recent report on women’s health care. Ranked as a frustratingly 24th in the nation, the report illuminated many areas in women’s health care where Washington comes up short, specifically around the areas of racial disparities.
For example, Washington state is ranked 17th in the nation when it comes to mortality rate of white women, but seventh in the nation when it comes to the mortality rate of African-American women. Even more shocking is the infant mortality rate. White children in Washington are ranked 14th in the nation for infant mortality, but black children are ranked first in the nation for infant mortality.
There is a bill before the state Senate that would help ameliorate these issues. Recently, the House passed its own version of the Reproductive Health Act (HB 1647). Section 4 of the bill requires the governor’s interagency council on health disparities to examine some of the underlining reasons as to why racial and ethnic disparities in the state regarding women’s health care are so extreme. If passed, the interagency council will release its findings, along with policies recommendations, to legislators as soon as Jan. 1, 2016.
The state’s Reproductive Health Act is not a panacea, but it is an important step in ensuring that all women in Washington have open and equitable access to health care. The Senate should pass it without delay or burdensome amendments.
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Marco Rosaire Rossi