Halle Berry shouts from Capitol Hill: “I’m in menopause” as she seeks to end stigma and get funding

Washington –

Halle Berry is joining a bipartisan group of senators to push legislation to allocate $275 million to research and education about menopause, the major hormonal change women experience in midlife.

The legislation requires the federal government to spend more on menopause clinical trials, as well as hormone therapy used to treat hot flashes and other symptoms.

Berry, 57, yelled about menopause outside the U.S. Capitol on Thursday. She said it’s a word that her own doctor told her he was afraid to say in front of her.

“I’m in menopause, okay?” Berry shouted, drawing laughter from the crowd. “We must remove the shame of menopause. We have to talk about this very normal part of our lives that happens. “Our doctors can’t even say the word to us, let alone guide us through the journey.”

In recent months, Hollywood’s leading actress has been candid about the painful symptoms she experienced during perimenopause, which occurs before menopause when a woman’s estrogen levels begin to drop. Her doctor initially misdiagnosed her with herpes, a sexually transmitted disease for which both Berry and her partner tested negative.

Under a proposal by Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington and Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, $125 million would be set aside for clinical trials, public health and medical research on menopause. The remaining money would help support menopause screening and diagnosis, train doctors on menopause treatment, and raise public awareness about it.

“Menopause is not a dirty word, it is not something to be ashamed of, and it is not something that Congress or the federal government should ignore,” Murray said.

The bill has the support of 17 senators: three Republicans, 13 Democrats, one independent and all of them women. Several senators said Thursday that they hope the bill will also encourage doctors, women and men, to speak more openly about the health milestone that all women experience.

In addition to Berry, other celebrities have started sharing more about menopause on talk shows and interviews, while some have even started selling menopause-related products. And last year, US President Joe Biden unveiled a new initiative to improve the federal government’s research on women’s health, including menopause. Dr. Monica Bertagnolli, director of the National Institutes of Health, has said that too little is known about women’s health at all stages of life. Her agency is the federal government’s main medical research arm.

While the legislation has overcome what is often one of Congress’s biggest hurdles (gaining bipartisan support), its prospects are uncertain. Getting Congress to pass bills at any time is difficult, and the challenges are now compounded by the division in Congress and the shrinking number of days on the legislative calendar before the November elections.

The women’s group will need to gain support from their male colleagues to make the money for menopause research a reality. Congress is overwhelmingly represented by men.

Murkowski said she hoped to receive support from her male counterparts. “If men went through menopause, we would have adequately and appropriately funded menopause research decades and decades ago.”

Associated Press medical writer Lauran Neergaard contributed to this report.

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