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Endometriosis on the House Floor with Abby Finkenauer

by Caeleigh Alexander

Editor’s Note: The Endometriosis Foundation of Houston last month met with U.S. Representative Abby Finkenauer's office to discuss how she plans to continue addressing endometriosis funding in Congress. During the meeting, EFHou President Alison Landolt and Chairwoman Maria Mamora invited the congresswoman to take part in EFHou's most recent campaign, Faces of Endo. The women also discussed ways to amplify and boost endo awareness to secure additional funding.

Part of our goal at the Endometriosis Foundation of Houston is to validate the feelings of women in Houston and provide a community for those braving endometriosis. It’s unfortunate that this same sense of community and pride has not been felt in the political world. That is, until now.

U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D-IA) is not only the formidable second youngest member of the house, but she is also a woman with endometriosis. She has given power to the voices of women across America who are in pain by introducing their struggle to national politics. Endometriosis finally has a voice in the House of Representatives by the name of Abby Finkenauer.

The congresswoman has:

* Established the Congressional Endometriosis Caucus

* Started the endometriosis conversation among the House members

* Made herself vulnerable by bringing her personal pain into her career

The $13 million fund for endometriosis research from the House was doubled in March by the efforts of Finkenauer. She has brought the pain she shares with millions of women to the House floor and established the House Endometriosis Caucus to push for more funding towards endometriosis research.

In her interview with The Lily, Finkenauer mentions how most of her congressional career has been focused on investments in infrastructure, farmers, and small businesses but after bringing endometriosis and her own individual pain forward to make monumental change, she found a personal connection to the cause. Women came forward from all corners of the country to share in her experience and thank her for validating their pain. Finkenauer acknowledges that the caucus has a lot more work to do and they plan to continue working to fund the endometriosis research.

The congresswoman has opened up about her hesitation to speak out about her struggle with endometriosis and the very personal details of her pain to the House of Representatives.

"I didn't want to give anybody another reason for them to think I couldn't do my job," Finkenauer said. "And so I never shared it."

Many women avoid speaking about their menstrual pain or about conditions that affect them daily to indirectly avoid hateful suspicion about their strength and stability. We face belittlement in respect to the hormonal changes associated with periods. Our pain and struggle has been pushed into silence to avoid making others feel discomfort. Women in the public eye or who regularly face the press, like Finkenauer, have even more reason to try to avoid these hateful accusations.

"It doesn't make me weak that I have this," Finkenauer said. "In fact, I hope folks see that, especially women who do have it or are people who love the women who have it, realize that they are strong as hell."

Finkenauer is an inspiration to women with endometriosis everywhere and her work on the house floor has brought double the government funding to endometriosis research. However, we still have a long way to go in understanding endometriosis and in helping the women facing it everyday. Luckily, with women like Finkenauer, we can bring awareness of endometriosis to the public and continue to validate the pain of millions.

Caeleigh Alexander is an intern with EFHou.

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