Hillary Clinton lashed out because of the "appalling degree to which women were routinely excluded from major clinical trials of most illnesses." Marcia Angell, then editor of the august New England Journal of Medicine, pronounced this lament: "There is little doubt that women have been systematically excluded as subjects for study." And Dr. Vivian Pinn of the National Institutes of Health wrote, "The exclusion of some women from clinical studies may sometimes be valid, but not all women all the time."
Of course no one had ever bothered to actually compile the numbers, so they were unable to refute the claim. But everyone knew the male-dominated medical research establishment was interested only in prostates and male-pattern baldness, so the ladies' claims rang true.
Now under the political gun, the NIH hastily created its Office for Women's Health Research. In 1991 president George Bush (the first one) appointed cardiologist Bernadine Healy as director of NIH and gave her a mandate to break the patriarchy's stranglehold on medical research.
Feminists skillfully parlayed public outrage into research agendas and budget allocations. Millions were pumped into breast cancer research, and by 1992, National Cancer Institute funding for breast cancer reached $145 million. No one mentioned that the prostate budget that year barely topped $31 million.
But skeptics began to doubt the common wisdom. An Institute of Medicine panel looked into the matter and was forced to admit it "could not nail down the truth of the perception that women have been under represented" in medical research.
In 1993 Congress passed a law that required the NIH to track sex-specific enrollments. Everyone knew the numbers would reveal an appalling under-representation of members of the fairer sex.
So the following year, red-faced NIH officials had to admit things weren't so grim after all. Participants in NIH-funded studies were 52% female, 45% male, with the remainder being unknown.
But no one was going to let facts stand in the way of gender liberation, so the crusade pressed forward. At latest count, male research participation had fallen to 40%.
Two years ago Dr. S.M. Huang and colleagues at the Food and Drug Administration published a review, "Evaluation of Drugs in Women: Regulatory Perspective." Tallying up five separate analyses of sex-specific participation, they concluded "women have been included in drug development studies at least since the early 1980s in approximate proportion to the prevalence of disease in them."
Of course the Sisters of Insincerity knew their ruse would eventually be exposed, so they set out to consolidate their gains. Before long a federal bureaucracy devoted to the cause of women's health had sprung into existence. Those programs would boast a $5 billion budget, four times more than the money allotted to men's health.
There's a certain irony to all this.
Every year the government publishes a compendium of health information that takes the measure of Americans' health. Leaf through its pages, and you'll see that men are lagging on practically every measure: death rates, doctor visits, insurance coverage, and so forth.
At latest count, the lifespan of women was 80.1 years, with men trailing at 74.8 years. And Black men - their life expectancy is only 69 years. Whatever happened to the vision of gender equality?
Today, the women's health movement has become a multi-billion dollar interest group that tap-dances smoothly among feckless bureaucrats, chivalrous congressmen looking to woo the female vote, groups like the Society for Women's Health Research lining up to take their cut, and media types desperate for yet another story to pander to their female readership.
Women's health has become elevated to a cult-like status, a religious crusade worthy of Red Dress galas hosted by the First Lady, national events touting a "Race for the Cure," and a recent front-cover tribute by US News and World Report.
Being divinely-blessed is good, because then you can enjoy your Marie Antoinette moments.
(Editor's note: The answer, obviously, is not for government to spend more on men's health, but to get government out of the health business altogether. Then it will respond to reality and truth, not a political agenda of any kind. )
Carey Roberts probes and lampoons political correctness. His work has been published frequently in the Washington Times, Townhall.com, LewRockwell.com, ifeminists.net, Intellectual Conservative, and elsewhere. He is a staff reporter for the New Media Network.