Yesterday, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) introduced a bill, the Uterine Fibroids Research and Education Act, to provide funding for research and education on uterine fibroids. Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY), who has shared her own experience of having surgery as a result of the benign growths, has led companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growths that affect an estimated 26 million women in this country, and they are the leading cause of hysterectomies. Black women are more likely to develop them at younger ages, have larger and greater numbers of fibroids, and experience more severe symptoms than white women.
“Millions of women across the country are affected by uterine fibroids, which can present serious health complications,” Sen. Harris said in an interview with Refinery29. “Complications from uterine fibroids can lead to maternal mortality and morbidity, an ongoing crisis, especially for Black women. We have an opportunity to change that with the Uterine Fibroids Research and Education Act. I’m proud to work with Congresswoman Clarke to ensure women get the care, support and knowledge they need.”
The condition is extremely common—the majority of American women will get them by the time they’re 50—but the lack of education about fibroids is startling. This is exacerbated by the fact that Black women are less likely to be heard by their doctors when they talk about their pain. Though most sufferers have no symptoms, some experience heavy bleeding, pelvic pain, anemia, miscarriages and infertility. These issues can significantly interfere with a woman’s quality of life.
“This bill is an important first step toward making women’s health care a priority,” Rep. Clarke told Refinery29. “Many women who suffer from uterine fibroids have their condition go undiagnosed as a result of a lack of education about the disease. Each year, approximately 7 million women in the U.S. suffer the symptoms of fibroids and an estimated 330,000 symptomatic women reside in New York.
“This disease has ravaged the lives of women across the country, and increasing funding for research and public education related to fibroids is critical to reversing that trend. If we are serious about fixing inequities in our health care system, we must treat uterine fibroids with the funding and attention it deserves.”
Harris’ proposed uterine fibroids bill would put $30 million a year from 2021 to 2025 into the coffers of the National Institutes of Health to expand uterine fibroids research, create a uterine fibroids public education program through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and improve data collection on which groups are affected by uterine fibroids.
The bill is supported by the Black Women’s Health Imperative, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the National Association of Nurse Practitioners, The White Dress Project and other organizations.
July is Fibroids Awareness Month.