Home Sexual Health Padma Lakshmi Sounds the Alarm on the Threat to Women’s Health Care

Padma Lakshmi Sounds the Alarm on the Threat to Women’s Health Care


Hours before this interview with author, activist, and TV host Padma Lakshmi, I watched with apprehension as Judge Amy Coney Barrett—a prospective U.S. Supreme Court justice—batted away questions during her Senate confirmation hearings. I was sitting on the couch, grappling with the realization that when it comes to landmark cases like Roe v. Wade, it could be a woman who casts the crucial vote to undo the centuries of work of our founding feminist mothers.

But before I could spew out in rage, I felt the usual, sharp cramping. It’s a pervasive pain that might be familiar to Lakshmi, who has been open about her struggle to get diagnosed with endometriosis given that the debilitating condition’s symptoms are often dismissed as “period pain.” In fact, the long and winding road to getting properly evaluated prompted Lakshmi to cofound the Endometriosis Foundation of America, which advocates for patients and funds research for disease awareness. She’s taken a similar candid approach to other taboo topics, championing women’s health whether or not it seems “polite” and writing for the New York Times about the decades she spent keeping quiet about her sexual assault.

I didn’t grow up in an environment that was nearly that frank when it came to sex, bodies, or contraceptives. In our Ethiopian household, the sex talk was replaced by the words “Just don’t date.” And when I graduated high school, I barely understood preventive care, preexisting conditions, or the ins and outs of Planned Parenthood, let alone what my body was going through.

So when presented with the chance, I was thrilled to talk to Lakshmi about her work to pull back the curtain on women’s health care. So much is at stake for women nationwide, between the fate of crucial rulings in the Supreme Court and the upcoming election. Here, Lakshmi breaks it down. 

Glamour: We are less than 20 days from the elections, and I’m sure you watched the vice presidential debate. There was an unforgettable moment where Senator Kamala Harris looked straight into the camera and said, of those with preexisting conditions, “They’re coming for you.” You are someone who’s been vocal about having a preexisting condition. How are you processing the risks of this election and the threat to health care?

Padma Lakshmi: Before you called, I was listening to the confirmation hearing of Amy Coney Barrett, and I don’t know if it’s true, but I’ve heard that Senator Lindsey Graham refuses to take a COVID test. And Senator Mike Lee, who has already been diagnosed with COVID, is sitting there on the Senate floor, yelling and screaming, and spewing all his germs everywhere.

It’s interesting to me that the same administration that wants to take health care away from 20 million people because of preexisting conditions is the same administration that’s not willing to wear a mask, mandate a national mask law, or have a national action plan against a pandemic.

But one thing I know for sure, because they’re sitting there—they have insurance.

You talk about the irresponsibility of our elected officials. As I’m sure you know, the pandemic disproportionately affects women in terms of jobs and economic losses and has us regressing in gender equalities. What do you feel like are the most critical issues women should be following in this election?

Well, the confirmation hearings are one thing. I think anybody who votes in favor of Amy Coney Barrett should be voted out of office. I find it very interesting that they’re bristling at the fact that there would be a law with a fine or any mandate to wear a mask because they feel like it’s an infringement on their freedom, yet they’re willing to tell a woman when she can have children or not. This is another way that the patriarchy subjugates women, and that’s really what this is about.


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