July 30, 2020

Harris Introduces Legislation to Support Uterine Fibroids Research and Education

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) on Thursday introduced the Uterine Fibroid Research and Education Act, legislation to initiate crucial research and education in relation to uterine fibroids and ensure women get the information and care they need. Congresswoman Yvette Clarke (NY-11) introduced this legislation in the House of Representatives.

“Millions of women across the country are affected by uterine fibroids, which can present serious health complications,” said Senator Harris. “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 Fibroid Research and Education Act. I’m proud to work with Congresswoman Clarke to ensure that women get the care, support, and knowledge they need.”

“This bill is an important first step towards making women’s healthcare a priority by addressing uterine fibroids. 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 healthcare system, then we must treat uterine fibroids with the funding and attention it deserves,” said Congresswoman Clarke.

Uterine fibroids affect an estimated 26 million women between the ages of 15 and 50, across all racial backgrounds and socioeconomic levels in the United States. While this issue affects women across all racial backgrounds, Black women develop uterine fibroids earlier, have larger and a greater number of fibroids, and are three times more likely than white women to be hospitalized for uterine fibroids. Also, more than 80% of Black women and about 70% of white women develop fibroids by the time they reach menopause. Further, they are the leading cause for hysterectomy: 22% of Black women and 7% of white women with uterine fibroids have hysterectomies as a result of the condition.

Despite being the most common gynecological condition, there is a lack of awareness and prioritization about uterine fibroids as an important health issue. Some women who experience uterine fibroids have no symptoms; however, those that do experience: severe pelvic pain, iron-deficiency, anemia, miscarriages, infertility, and heavy bleeding. Building awareness around uterine fibroids is not only a health equity issue, but an economic imperative. Uterine fibroids cost our health care system an estimated $9.4 billion annually.

The Uterine Fibroid Research and Education Act would:

  • Provide $30 million annually for FY21-FY25 to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to expand research on uterine fibroids.
  • Direct the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to expand the Chronic Conditions Warehouse research database to include data on the services provided to women who experience symptoms of uterine fibroids.
  • Create a uterine fibroids public education program through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to disseminate information on the incidence and prevalence of uterine fibroids among women—including the elevated risk for women of color—and the available treatment options.
  • Direct the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), in consultation with medical societies, to develop and disseminate information regarding uterine fibroids to health care providers, including the elevated risk for women of color to develop uterine fibroids and the available treatment options.

In addition to Harris and Clarke, this legislation is co-sponsored in the Senate by Senators Van Hollen (D-MD) and Booker (D-NJ) .

This bill is supported by: Black Women’s Health Imperative, The Fibroid Foundation, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Sexual Health Association, American Society for Reproductive Medicine, CARE About Fibroids, HealthyWomen, National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women's Health, National Black Nurses Association, National Coalition of 100 Black Women, National Hispanic Medical Association, National Medical Association, National Organization of Black Elected Women (NOBEL Women), Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health, Society for Women’s Health Research, Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and The White Dress Project.

“There is a vital need for more research to be done regarding Uterine Fibroids and the burden placed on various racial and ethnic groups. We also need to collect data to develop more effective interventions and evaluate therapies, especially among black women who are disproportionately and more severely impacted by uterine fibroids. That is why the Black Women’s Health Imperative supports the Uterine Fibroid Research and Education Act introduced by the Senator Kamala Harris. This legislation will increase NIH funding focused on Uterine Fibroids research and lead to a new evidence base for treatment and cure for women of color,” said Linda Goler Blount, President and CEO of Black Women’s Health Imperative.

“One in three women have been silently coping with debilitating, sometimes life-threatening uterine fibroid complications for far too long. This Bill will provide vital research and education to move us closer to ending this suffering, and will provide women with a better quality of life,” said Sateria Venable, Founder & CEO, The Fibroid Foundation.

“For far too long, we have simply accepted the unknowns about uterine fibroids when in reality, those unknowns represent a gap in research,” said Tanika Gray Valbrun, founder of The White Dress Project. “We’re grateful to Senator Harris for making uterine fibroids research a priority.” 

“NHMA strongly supports the Uterine Fibroid Research and Education Act because it will create needed research and education needed for us to better understand uterine fibroids and ensure that minority women can get information and care that they need for this condition,” said Elena Rios, MD, MSPH, FACP, President & CEO, National Hispanic Medical Association.

Dr. Martha A. Dawson, RN, FACHE, President of the National Black Nurses Association said, “Uterine fibroid can have a significant impact on the quality of life for females suffering from this condition. She noted that both ‘physical and mental pain’ are results of this sometimes debilitating condition that impact women’s ability to work, gain promotion, and perform simple activities of daily family life. This bill is needed to help relieve the burden of women suffering from this disease.”

“Even as millions of American women suffer from debilitating fibroids, public awareness and research funding for this disease remains startlingly low. SWHR applauds Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) on her introduction of the Uterine Fibroids Research and Education Act, which will expand federal research efforts and bring much needed attention to this overlooked disease. Greater public awareness of fibroids will spark essential conversations among women, their families, and their health care providers about menstrual conditions, which are often stigmatized and dismissed by society. Increased funding for fibroids research is crucial to discovering better treatment options for women with this disease. We are hopeful that this bill will help prioritize uterine fibroids as a critical women’s health issue,” said Kathryn Schubert, MPP, President & CEO, Society for Women’s Health Research.

“For the millions of women struggling with symptomatic fibroids, this is an important step toward highlighting a condition that has been in the shadows for far too long. Our mothers, sisters and friends, especially women of color, have suffered in silence from the debilitating impact of this condition that has received too little attention and too few research dollars from the federal government. We are deeply grateful for Sen. Harris’s action to step up and be a champion for women with fibroids,” said Jenny Rosenberg, Executive Director, CARE About Fibroids.

The Uterine Fibroids Research and Education Act can be read HERE.

###