Jenn Rogers

    What Health Reform Won’t Heal: The Effect of Toxic Chemicals on Sex & Reproduction

    Posted December 10th, 2009 by

    Without needing to be a news or political junkie, you may have noticed right now that everyone in Washington is discussing health care reform and its affects on women’s health, generally, and the right to choose, specifically.  The Stupak-Pitts Amendment in the House bill would prohibit any health plan participating in the nationwide exchange from offering abortion coverage. This means virtually all insurance plans would be forced to drop abortion services even when purchased by private funds. These discussions are fraught with dismay, heartache and anger because it’s becoming clear that women’s reproductive health and rights are not guaranteed but rather a bargaining chip for those on Capitol Hill. And, disappointingly, the Obama Administration has been quite silent in taking a stand and fighting for access to abortion services for all women.

    Women’s health organizations have been working very hard to signal our objection to the House Stupak-Pitts amendment, to defeat the Senate version (the Nelson Amendment) and to change the course of what may be when the Senate and House bills are reconciled, if indeed the two bills go to conference committee.

    At the same time, this past month, two new studies have shown that exposure to chemicals found in our homes, workplaces, and consumer products including plastics, food, sunscreen, and water bottles, are linked to feminization of boys, male sexual problems, and erectile dysfunction. This adds to the body of evidence that has linked toxic chemicals to a host of women’s reproductive health problems including miscarriage, infertility, early puberty and cancer.

    The evidence is clear that both women and men are adversely affected by these chemicals. Yes, it’s scary. Many of my friends, family, and coworkers are nervous, frustrated, and becoming overwhelmed. We can’t all be amateur chemists and nor should we be. Isn’t our government supposed to protect the public’s health and safety? Shouldn’t the chemicals in our consumer products be tested for safety? It turns out they’re not.

    Although this comes as a surprise to some, others are not shocked. In the thirty-three years since laws were first passed to test potentially harmful chemicals, only two hundred of the 80,000 chemicals produced and used in the US have been tested. Current regulations are so ineffective that they did not allow the government to ban asbestos, a known carcinogen. Although we can do our best as individuals to stay informed and shop wisely, we need companies to disclose what’s in their products and for the government to test all chemicals for safety. We need reform for the health and safety of ourselves and for our children—and we need it now.

    So I feel today, as I do many days, that I’m doing a balancing act. I want and need to fight for what may become a major setback for women’s health and rights for my generation. I want to expand access to health care and eliminate the double standard that treats a woman differently than a man when it comes to insurance coverage. In the same moment, I also want to address what we now know harms women and men’s reproductive health: toxic chemicals. The trick is to stay equally attuned to first ensuring that a woman can get pregnant if she wishes to do so, as well as ensure that, if a woman gets pregnant, she has access to all of the healthcare options that are the best for herself and her family.

    The endgame of the Stupak-Pitts in health reform amendment is our unknown future–at least until decisions are made about whether or not a conference committee will be created or the current Senate bill is taken up directly by the House.

    The reality of toxic substances in our everyday products—and the lack of government oversight of these toxic chemicals—is our known present reality. As an advocate for women’s reproductive health, my work is both urgent and ongoing.

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    Posted Under: H: Environmental Health


    December 27, 2009 at 11:00 pm by Pat

    Good article and this has been part of my battle cry over these toxic chemicals. We will never rein in healthcare costs as long as we continue to allow ourselves to be poisoned by chemicals. More and more research points to chemicals as the cause of illnesses. Cancer, autism, learning disabilities, neurodegerative disease all fall into this group. We walk the walks, buy the trinkets, write the checks and support the organizations that look to cure these diseases. I have decided not to do any of these things again. I want the focus to be on looking at the cause and then we will not need to cure people. Our efforts have done nothing for most of these illnesses. Common sense should be telling us we need to rethink our battle plan because we surely are losing the war. If we do not wake up soon it will be too late. There will be no future generations. I think it is time for the mothers to march again.


    December 21, 2009 at 1:02 pm by Alice Shabecoff

    Hi Jody,
    Wonderful summary!
    We figured out that one of every three American children suffers from a chronic illness. That means 23 million kids…46 million parents, and 92 grandmothers!!!
    We are a powerhouse for change.
    On the other hand, the fight over health insurance reform shows us how various industries manage to buy their Congressmen/women and get their way.

    Not giving up ever,


    December 14, 2009 at 2:45 pm by El

    This is an extremely important topic! Thank you for writing about it. I, too, try to be an informed consumer and buy only organic foods, etc., but it truly is overwhelming without much help from regulatory bodies. I have found lots of interesting information relating to food chemicals on the Pesticide Action Network (, as well as action items to allow our voices to be heard in government.


    December 10, 2009 at 2:51 pm by JM Kochenash

    What a great article…I agree.
    Fabulous work, Jenn.
    Love you


    December 10, 2009 at 1:56 pm by Jody N.

    I couldn’t agree more, something needs to change – now. Below is a link to a story about my daughters exposure to toxic chemicals in a toy. It’s the unknown lasting health effects that concerns me most and that these companies are not being held accountable for what they are exposing us and our children too.


    Samantha C. Reply:

    @Jody N.,
    I help out with Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families a nation-wide coalition working to reform the out-of-date Toxic Substance Control Act (along with MomsRising!) and we are collecting stories from people like you!

    I read the article in WaPost that features you, what an ordeal to go through! Very scary indeed!

    Would you consider submitting a story for our site? Read about Safer Chemicals and our stories at

    Thanks Jody, Jenn and MomsRising!



    Jody N. Reply:

    @Samantha C.,
    I’d be happy to share my story on your site – anything I can do to help raise awareness about this issue, thanks for thinking of me!


    Samantha C. Reply:

    @Jody N.,

    Thanks, Jody. Please feel free to email me and we can have a discussion about what our Story section is all about!

    Excited to have your voice join the choir!


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