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Louisiana Ladies Last in Well-Being

Louisiana ranks number one in obesity, but the old adage about being fat and happy doesn’t necessarily ring true for Louisiana women, according to a new report. The Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank, came out with a list that counts down from the states where women fare best, to those where women are struggling the most. 


The report, authored by Anna Chu and Charles Posner, goes through 36 total factors dealing with women’s well-being. Umbrella categories are economics, leadership, and health. Analysts gave each state a ranking in each category, then averaged the scores. Louisiana, like 10 other states, received an F. Maryland came in number one, joining nine other states at the top of the class.


The study gathered information on female healthcare in each state, including the number of uninsured minority women, levels of access to contraceptive/abortion needs, and funding (or lack thereof) for Planned Parenthood.


In terms of leadership, the report breaks down states by the number of women in Congress, severity of management gaps in employment, and women elected to executive office positions. 


NoDef caught up with Interim Director at Loyola’s Women’s Resource Center Julie Thibodaux, J.D., who said that the most salient criteria for Louisiana women are those that deal with “becoming part of the power structure.” 


The most obvious place to start dissecting the report's findings is with the economy, said Thibodaux. “Economics is something we really need to look at, especially single mothers in Louisiana and how poverty affects them,” she said.


Although Thibodaux’s work is largely health-related, she said economics and healthcare are inextricably tied to one another, especially in terms of reproductive care.


“The lack of reproductive justice, not just abortion care, but any kind of reproductive healthcare,” said Thibodaux. “The defunding of Planned Parenthood, the issues with the new facility that will be on Claiborne,” said Thibodaux. “Women who have access to full healthcare don’t understand why women need places like Planned Parenthood.”


In terms of leadership, Thibodaux said that Senator Mary Landrieu can’t be the only powerful political figures.


“If you look at our leadership, there’s not many women leaders. We’re lucky to have young ladies to look up to like Mary Landrieu, but there’s few people in the state legislature. There aren’t a lot of women going into politics,” said Thibodaux.


The expert devotes some of her time to working with the American Association of University Women, noting that on-campus training for students is critical. However, Thibodaux said, Louisiana’s educated women must be cognizant of others with fewer resources.


“We need support within our feminist community, to realize our own privilege,” said Thibodaux. “We live in a ‘pull yourself up by the bootstraps’ society, but what if you don’t have the boots?”


The women’s rights activist said that education is only one piece of a larger solution, which involves reaching out to lower-income women and those without access to childcare.


“When we have things on campus, we make sure childcare is provided,” said Thibodaux. “If we want our mothers to come and it’s not necessarily a child-appropriate venue, we can’t expect people to come at nighttime.”


Thibodaux also cited the Equal Pay Act as a minor victory for women, although it only covers state employees. Legislatively, Thibodaux said, advocates should be on the lookout for bills that target Planned Parenthood, and try to further de-fund healthcare programs geared towards women.  

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