Protecting Women's Health in 2012

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SOUTH FLORIDA - Women's health was a big focus this month since it's National Cervical Health Awareness Month and National Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Month.  January also marks the 39th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision that affirmed a woman's right to choose as a fundamental freedom.

In an effort to raise awareness about National Cervical Health Awareness Month, I met with medical professionals, cancer advocates and cancer survivors at the Broward County Health Department.  We discussed the importance of early detection, the availability of free screenings and what all women should know about the risks of cervical cancer and related diseases.

Each year more than 12,000 American women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and a third of them will die from it. That's why cutting-edge facilities like the one at the Broward County Health Department are crucial in the effort to increase early detection and treatment. They offer free screening exams for breast and cervical cancers, as well as treatment to women who need it.

Like most cancers, cervical cancer is best treated if caught early – so this month is the perfect time to remind the women in your lives to get their annual pap tests. They are fast, simple, and widely available – and now there's really no excuse not to get one.  Last August, President Obama announced that as part of the Affordable Care Act, women can access preventive care without a co-pay or cost-sharing. This includes pap tests, mammograms, colonoscopies, yearly well-woman visits and contraceptive products.  In addition, insurance companies are now banned from denying care based on "pre-existing conditions" which used to include cervical cancer, breast cancer, pregnancy, having had a C-section, or having been a victim of domestic violence.

As a breast cancer survivor myself, I know how important prevention and early detection is. It can literally mean the difference between life and death.  So I am committed to making sure that my constituents have all the information and resources they need to keep themselves healthy.  And I will continue to work hard to ensure that Congress does its part in the fight against cancer.

Another crusade that's gaining momentum in South Florida is the effort against human trafficking.  In honor of National Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Month, my office organized a roundtable meeting with Broward County's Human Trafficking Coalition, the Broward Sheriff's Office, the FBI Miami Bureau, local law enforcement and women and children's advocacy groups to talk about how to address this tragic issue.

Right here in the United States, one person is sold into human trafficking every ten minutes. An estimated 200,000 people, some as young as 13, are being sold into prostitution and pornography. This is a very serious issue, and one that I've been passionate about throughout my legislative career. In Washington, I'm working with my colleagues across the aisle on anti-trafficking bills, such as the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, as well as other bills like the Violence Against Women Act and the Adam Walsh Reauthorization Act.  These bills strive to help victims and curb the trafficking epidemic in our country. Sadly, we still have a long way to go in the fight to end trafficking. But with the efforts of groups like the Broward Human Trafficking Coalition, and all the others I met with recently, we are getting closer every day.         

We've come a long way in the last few decades when it comes to women's rights - from Roe v. Wade protecting a woman's right to make educated medical decisions regarding their reproductive health to the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act guaranteeing women equal pay for equal work.  And thanks to the Affordable Care Act, women now have the right to health care coverage without their gender being considered a "pre-existing condition." We must do our part to continue protecting women's rights and encourage the women in our lives to take care of their health.    

I am proud to be an advocate for South Florida, and my office is always open to you. You can reach us in Pembroke Pines at 954-437-3936, in Aventura at 305-936-5724 and in Washington, DC at 202-225-7931.  I'm also available online at and on Facebook. You can download my mobile app for iPhone and Android here. Comcast-on-demand customers can stay up to date with my work for you on channel 890.

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