At the event championing women’s rights and reproductive health care, Dr. Cynthia Harper discusses the increased need for contraception in response to the Zika virus epidemic.

August 26th, 2016

In celebration of Women’s Equality Day and the 96th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, Dr. Cynthia Harper, UCSF Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, and ZSFGH Women’s Options Center Medical Director and Professor, Dr. Eleanor Drey, shared a stage at UCSF Mission Bay with prominent Bay Area Congresswomen on August 25th for an event on women’s health care access.

Congresswomen Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Lee, Anna Eshoo and Jackie Speier led a call to action to increase funding, expand research and support policy initiatives for comprehensive reproductive health care. Speakers emphasized the need for federal support in response to the Zika virus epidemic, which continues to rapidly spread through Latin America, the Caribbean and now into the US.

Dr. Harper shared her experience traveling to Puerto Rico recently for trainings on contraceptive care with physicians and clinic staff as a part of Beyond the Pill’s involvement in the Zika Contraception Access Network (Z-CAN). Dr. Harper expressed concern that over 1,000 pregnant women in Puerto Rico have tested positive for Zika, a virus known to cause severe birth defects. Noting the absence of a cure for Zika and the high rate of unintended pregnancy on the island, Dr. Harper called for swift action to scale up access to affordable contraception for women in Puerto Rico.

The event honored women winning the right to vote almost 100 years ago, while acknowledging current threats to women’s rights and comprehensive reproductive health services. Drawing on their vast expertise, the speakers eloquently described what government, medical and research institutions must do to achieve health equity in the US. In her concluding remarks, Representative Pelosi thanked Dr. Harper, Dr. Drey and the UCSF medical community for being “messengers of hope” with their continuous research and advocacy efforts to expand access to reproductive health care, especially amidst the current Zika epidemic.