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Why So Many Women Can’t Access Health Care

Published by USC Bedrosian Center on

by Anthony Orlando

In Imperial County, California, just outside San Diego, 5.5 percent of teenage girls become pregnant every year. That’s twice the rate in the rest of the state. This presents two mysteries: Why is teen pregnancy so rampant here when it’s been declining to record lows statewide? And why has it received so little attention? In her recent PhD dissertation, my guest solved both of these mysteries. What she found will make you rethink everything you thought you knew about women’s health care—and the politics that determine whether it’s accessible for all.

In this episode, inspirational speaker and social work professor Melissa Bird brings us face-to-face with American women who form the very bedrock of their communities—and their incredible, invisible struggle to take care of themselves.

Dr. Bird is a college lecturer and public speaker on issues ranging from social work to public policy to leadership. She publishes research on women’s health and social justice. She has worked as a therapist, a program manager for homeless youth policy, a citizen lobbyist, and as the Executive Director of the Planned Parenthood Action Council and the Vice President of Public Policy for the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah. She holds a PhD in social work from the University of Southern California. She is launching a new online program, “Marginalized No More,” to inspire and teach average citizens how to engage in politics and enact change. More details are available on her website,

To listen to this episode of Our American Discourse, click the arrow in the Soundcloud player here. Or you can download it and subscribe through ApplePodcasts, Soundcloud, or Google Play.


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“Reproductive Health in the United States: A Review of the Recent Social Work Literature” by Rachel L. Wright, Melissa Bird, & Caren J. Frost

“STD and Abortion Prevalence in Adolescent Mothers with Histories of Childhood Protection Involvement” by Julie A. Cederbaum, Emily Putnam-Hornstein, Kathrine Sullivan, & Melissa Bird

“Predicting Levels of Policy Advocacy Engagement Among Acute-Care Health Professionals” by Bruce S. Jansson, Adeline Nyamathi, Gretchen Heidemann, Melissa Bird, Cathy Rogers Ward, Katherine Brown-Saltzman, Lei Duan, & Charles Kaplan



This podcast was produced by Aubrey Hicks and Jonathan Schwartz, recorded and mixed by Corey Hedden.

@AubreyHi @jonHLYP @coreyhedden

Bedrosian Center