Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Channeling Cynthia

Three years ago, almost to the day, I attended a Supreme Court hearing in Washington, DC, lining up at 3:30 a.m. on the coldest day of the year!

Afterward, I had lunch with my new friend Cynthia Dailard, a senior policy analyst at the Guttmacher Institute, a think tank devoted to women's health issues. We'd met earlier in L.A. and liked each other instantly; we'd been emailing back and forth ever since.

We had a great lunch and when we said good-bye I hugged her, and then for no reason, I hugged her again. A few weeks later our family went overseas and when we got back in January, I had a voicemail telling me Cynthia had died of cardiac arrest, caused by a previously undetected heart defect. She was 38, and left behind two small children and her husband of 14 years. To add to the tragedy she died the day before Christmas, Dec. 24, 2006.

As the holidays approach, she's been on my mind a lot.

She'd emailed me about a piece in The New Yorker called, "The Swamp Nurse," by Katerine Boo. Cynthia had covered the same material in a policy review showing how home nurse visits were instrumental in preventing subsequent pregnancies among poor teen moms. She'd put together an amazing array of evidence as to the importance of funding such projects, over the $176 million spent annually on abstinence-only education through the Bush administration. But she felt her piece "paled in comparison" to Boo's, whom she called an incredible writer. At lunch she'd quizzed me about my writing, how I'd started, what I was doing, how one makes it as a freelancer.  She talked about branching out beyond writing policy papers, into something more creative. I didn't exactly come right out and tell her I wasn't making it, although I did tell her it was difficult; but I encouraged her to try because she seemed so darn excited about the possibilities.

When she died Senators Olympia Snowe and Hillary Clinton submitted a Congressional Resolution honoring her work as a women's health advocate.

Their resolution can by found on the Cynthia Dailard memorial website.

It's hard not to read/hear/talk about the health care bill without thinking of Cynthia, knowing she'd be front and center, writing about the importance of decent coverage for everyone, especially, young and poor women. Today the Senate announced they're dropping the kind of equitable public option we'd all prayed for, in lieu of increasing national coverage in the health insurance market. Huh? I'm sorry Cynthia's not here to shed some of her brilliant light on the subject.


  1. We need more people like Cynthia - what a beautiful tribute.

  2. lovely post about Cynthia. a great way to honor her memory. Damn, we need her voice!