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US legislators, White Dress Project push for $150M for fibroid research, awareness

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — As many as 15 million women could be living with severe symptoms stemming from this fibroids.

Even though the condition is so common, advocates say, research and treatment knowledge is lacking. So, they are looking to legislators to help make change.

U.S. House Resolution 2007, introduced in March, would provide $150 million in funding over five years. Authored by U.S. Rep. Yvette Clark, a Democrat from New York, the measure received support from U.S. Rep. André Carson, a Democrat from Indianapolis, and Vice President Kamala Harris and from the nonprofit The White Dress Project. The organization is dedicated to raising awareness of uterine fibroids.

So far, the measure has not advanced beyond being referred to the House Subcommittee on Health on March 19.

The measure would provide for research and education with respect to uterine fibroids and for other purposes. It’s also known as the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Uterine Fibroid Research and Education Act of 2021, named after the former U.S. representative who was the first woman to introduce fibroid legislation. The former Democrat died Aug. 20, 2008, in Cleveland.

White Dress Project founder Tanika Gray-Valburn said the measure would “explore and really research what is going on with uterine fibroids, why it’s disproportionately affecting Black women (and) why it shows up in minority women with severe symptoms.”

Gray-Valburn is working keep interest in the legislation alive.

The measure calls for $150 million over five years to go toward research and funding that would improve data collection and direct health organizations including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the federal Health Resources and Services Administration.

“Uterine fibroids are something that has been stigmatized and, instantly, you feel like it’s a taboo topic. You feel like you can’t talk about it,” Gray-Valbrun said.

Gray-Valbrun has created a platform to allow others to share their experiences and to get feedback from professionals, all designed to better help women navigate their journey.

It’s a journey she also shares. “Grapefruit sizes, oranges, cantaloupe, like huge, so that’s why my belly was always protruding like I was pregnant.”

Periods for her started to get heavy and painful at 14 years old. It was a familiar experience growing up because she watched her mother also struggle.

“I think what has happened, especially with Black women, we have normalized many of the symptoms of uterine fibroids. So, bleeding for 20 days in a row, it’s just what happens. It’s just a woman’s journey,” she said.

By the time she got married, the fibroids had grown and put her fertility at risk. Medicinal treatment turned out to be a huge painful fail. Then, she had surgery. Only then did she realize how much she’d put her life on hold. In her closet, she had no brightly colored or white clothes. Women steer clear of those colors when their menstrual cycles are heavy and unpredictable.

“So, that’s where the name the White Dress Project came from, because I wanted to find something that was hopeful, a symbol of hope.”

Again, she suggests, advocate for yourself. The White Dress Project founder said she took on a wait-and-see approach with her fibroids, and her condition got much worse. From that experience, she encourages everyone to get a second, third and even fourth opinion from a medical professional.

Statement

“Countless Hoosier women suffer from uterine fibroids, and the prevalence is even greater for Black women. Yet there isn’t enough being done to educate people about this very common health issue. H.R. 2007 helps address this problem by increasing research for uterine fibroids and improving awareness of the condition. If passed, this bill will help women with the condition achieve greater relief and advance the search for cures. I thank my colleagues, Reps. Clarke, Kelly, Watson Coleman, and Scott for introducing this legislation that I am honored to cosponsor. I also commend them for naming the bill after the late Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, a trailblazing public servant from Ohio who was a champion for women’s health.”

U.S. Rep. André Carson, a Democrat from Indianapolis

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