Halle Berry Gets Lawmakers to Spend $275 Million on First-of-Its-Kind Menopause Bill

“By advocating for my own health and wellbeing during menopause, I am not only standing up for myself but for all women,” Berry told reporters on Thursday.

Halle Berry Gets Lawmakers to Spend $275 Million on First-of-Its-Kind Menopause Bill

Halle Berry stopped by Capitol Hill on Thursday for a very fun reason: to talk about menopause! This week, Berry and a bipartisan group of senators rolled out the Advancing Menopause Care and Mid-Life Women’s Health Act, led by Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Susan Collins (R-ME), and others. The bill assigns $275 million to federal research, physician training, and public awareness about menopause. And Berry has come forth as the face of the legislation, months after she first shared her personal experience starting menopause and struggling to make sense of her symptoms or get help from her doctors…who were also struggling to make sense of her symptoms.

In March, Berry joined Propper Daley’s fourth “A Day of Unreasonable Conversation” summit for a conversation with First Lady Jill Biden and shared that when she first began experiencing menopause symptoms, one doctor diagnosed her with herpes. Berry recounted meeting the “man of my dreams” at 54 when she started dating Van Hunt, and one day after sexual intercourse, she experienced sharp pain in her vagina. “I run to my gynecologist and I say, ‘Oh my God, what’s happening?’ It was terrible. He said, ‘You have the worst case of herpes I’ve ever seen.’ I’m like, ‘Herpes? I don’t have herpes!’”

She did not, in fact, have herpes. She was starting menopause. “My doctor had no knowledge and didn’t prepare me. That’s when I knew, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve got to use my platform. I have to use all of who I am, and I have to start making a change and a difference for other women,'” Berry said.

This week, she told the Washington Post that at one point, she spent six months back and forth between doctors who gave numerous diagnoses, some of which were “scarier than others.” On top of the false herpes diagnosis, she told the Post that one physician diagnosed her with an autoimmune disease and wanted to prescribe steroids.

It shouldn’t be that difficult to learn that you’re in perimenopause, or at the onset of menopause when you start experiencing symptoms including exhaustion, hot flashes, night sweats, and pain after sex. Berry herself knew so little about menopause that she said she’d long believed that because she was physically fit and healthy, she’d simply “skip” the experience.

One survey from 2022 showed just 31% of OB-GYNs said they had a menopause curriculum in their residency training programs. Other surveys have shown patients, too, know little about potential treatments, what menopause entails, or how to get help. Sadly I don’t find this particularly surprising; our culture tells women our lives are effectively over after 40, and when we actually do, in fact, live much, much past that, and our bodies naturally change, the world—and health care system—sort of just shrug at you.

“By advocating for my own health and wellbeing during menopause, I am not only standing up for myself but for all women,” Berry told reporters at a news conference on Thursday afternoon. “Because, if we are fortunate enough to live this long, we will all experience this phase of life. Today is a call to action for each and every one of us to stand together and demand the care and attention that we so vitally deserve.”

Murray also addressed reporters about her bill. “For too long, menopause is something women have had to suffer through silently—like so many women’s health issues, menopause has been overlooked, underinvested in, and left behind,” she said. “Women should not have to face menopause alone, nor should we accept a status quo that treats menopause—which half the population will experience—as something to be swept under the rug. Menopause is a key part of women’s health that deserves serious attention and investment.”

Speaking to the Post, Murray emphasized that the prioritization of her bill is a reflection of women’s expanding leadership in Congress: “To be blunt, when men are in charge, they might listen, but they don’t take it as a priority,” the senator said. “We now have women in top positions. We know these issues. We know they need to be a priority.”

In the House, Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.) has also advocated for the bill. “We are taking the lack of knowledge, the isolation and sometimes shame out of this natural experience women go through and putting women and their wellbeing front and center,” Blunt Rochester said in a statement.

The Advancing Menopause Care and Mid-Life Women’s Health Act will allocate $125 million in menopause-related research grants through the National Institutes of Health, launch a $50 million public awareness campaign about menopause, and also fund $50 million in training for health workers, and $50 million to improve diagnosis and treatment of menopause.

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