Health & Reproduction 

Women’s Health

Women have amazing, complex bodies that present us with unique health concerns. Breast, ovarian, and cervical cancers, menstruation and menopause, pregnancy and breastfeeding, and other health issues become a concern for most women at some point in their lives.  For important information and updates on these issues, check out the Office on Women's Health website.      

In addition, the Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health has a legislative tracker so you can keep tabs on women's health-related bills going through the Wisconsin legislature. Learn more about the 20 week abortion ban bill

Reproductive Rights

Click here to see the Wisconsin Women's Network response to the June 30, 2014 Supreme Court ruling on the birth control mandate. 

The World Health Organization defines reproductive rights as "the recognition of the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so, and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health.  They also include the right of all to make decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion, and violence."  Abortion, contraception, sex education, and healthy pregnancies all fall into the realm of reproductive rights.

The 2010's have seen an onslaught of controversial legislation regarding reproductive rights. 

For additional information on reproductive rights:

The Status of Women in Wisconsin, published by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in 2002, gave Wisconsin a grade of F in its composite reproductive rights index, with a rank of 48 out of 51.

93% of Wisconsin counties do not have an abortion provider.

Less than half of all hospitals in Wisconsin routinely provide emergency contraception to victims of sexual assault.  

In January 2003, Wisconsin’s Family Planning Medicaid Waiver went into effect, allowing women at or below 200% of the federal poverty level access to basic reproductive health care services.

abortion on demand.jpg

How you can help

An abortion is a costly procedure that many women are unable to afford; in this case, these women are able to turn to abortion fund organizations for financial support.  An application determines financial need, and when money is available, funds usually grant or loan up to one-half the cost of an abortion (although in tragic cases more is sometimes granted). Fund checks are made payable to the clinic or physician after an abortion has been performed, ensuring the money is used for its intended purpose.

For almost 30 years, the Women’s Medical Fund, Inc. has helped women statewide. In 2000, over 840 women were helped from over 120 different Wisconsin communities. The Freedom Fund, Inc., located in Marshfield and formed in 1995, serves the central and northern areas of Wisconsin. The Options Fund, located in Eau Claire and formed in 1992, serves northwest Wisconsin and the Chippewa Valley. All are members of the National Network of Abortion Funds.

All three funds periodically run out of money and must turn away women who ask for help. Support of the funds can directly change the life of a woman in need. Donations are tax-deductible.

The Women’s Medical Fund, Inc.
PO Box 248
Madison, WI 53701

The Freedom Fund, Inc.
PO Box 92
Marshfield, WI 54449 

The Options Fund
PO Box 473
Eau Claire, WI 54702-0473

Body Image

Having a healthy body image is extremely important to a woman’s well-being. Body image is much more than what we look like. Body image encompasses:

  • How we perceive our bodies visually
  • How we feel about our physical appearance; how we think and talk to ourselves about our bodies
  • Our sense of how other people view our bodies
  • Our sense of our bodies in physical space (kinesthetic perception)
  • Our level of connectedness to our bodies.

Body image becomes especially important when looking at the connection between body image and self-image. Some people spend more time than others, but being interested in out bodies and what we look like, especially during teen years, is normal. Many people feel dissatisfied with some aspect of their appearance, though these concerns usually don’t constantly occupy thoughts constantly or cause them to feel tormented. Body image is a widespread preoccupation. In one study of college students, 74.4% of the normal-weight women stated that they thought about their weight or appearance “all the time” or “frequently.”

Encouragement to focus on appearance is at an all-time high in our culture, and with it comes the potential for a significant increase in negative body image. Not only are women encouraged to be thin, they are presented with an unrealistic physical ideal in opposition to the natural curves of a female body. The ideal female body is unattainable for most women and can lead to the pursuit of extreme and dangerous weight and body control behaviors. Extreme dieting, exercise compulsion, laxative abuse, vomiting, smoking and use of anabolic steroids have all been associated with negative body image. 

If Barbie were life-sized, she’d weigh 76% of a healthy body weight – a weight consistent with acute hospitalization. And GI Joe would have biceps almost as big as his waist, and bigger than most competitive body-builders!

Below is Barbie, adjusted to the proportions of a standard woman’s body.

Barbie as she is sold in stores (left) and adjusted to the proportions of the average woman's body (right).

Barbie as she is sold in stores (left) and adjusted to the proportions of the average woman's body (right).

Negative body image is also negatively reinforced through size prejudice. Being overweight is increasingly associated with poor moral character, being bad, lazy, ignorant, ugly, weak and lacking will power. Being thin is seen as healthy and valued, when often it is a matter of genetics and many complex lifestyle factors such as socioeconomic status and the environment. Other prejudices, such as racism, can also affect the relationship that a woman has with her body image. As minority populations integrate themselves to American life, assimilating to the unrealistic beauty ideal is often a large pressure as well.  Until we are better able to incorporate a range of ethnicities and skin tones into our common idea of what is beautiful, body image will never be an even playing field, especially for minority women.

To find help and support in coping with a negative body image and/or eating disorder: