Halle Berry shouts from the Capitol, ‘I’m in menopause’ as she seeks to end a stigma and win funding

Berry shouted about menopause outside the U.S. Capitol Thursday. She said it’s a word her own doctor told her he was scared to say in front of her.

Oscar-winning actress and women's health activist Halle Berry joins female senators as they introduce new legislation to boost federal research on menopause at the Capitol in Washington D.C. Thursday. The bipartisan Senate bill, the Advancing Menopause Care and Mid-Life Women's Health Act, would create public health efforts to improve women's mid-life health. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Halle Berry is joining a group of bipartisan senators to push for legislation that would put $275 million toward research and education around menopause, the significant hormone shift women go through in middle age.

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

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

“I’m in menopause, OK?” Berry yelled, eliciting chuckles from the crowd. “The shame has to be taken out of menopause. We have to talk about this very normal part of our life that happens. Our doctors can’t even say the word to us, let alone walk us through the journey.”

In recent months, the leading Hollywood actor has been candid about the painful symptoms she experienced while going through perimenopause, which occurs before menopause when a woman’s estrogen levels start dropping. Her doctor initially misdiagnosed her with herpes, a sexually transmitted disease that both Berry and her partner tested negative for.

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 detection and diagnosis, train doctors on treating menopause and raising public awareness around it.

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

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

Besides Berry, other celebrities have started sharing more about menopause on talk shows and in interviews, while some have even started hawking products related to it. And last year, President Joe Biden came out with a new initiative to improve the federal government’s research around 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 through all stages of life. Her agency is the federal government’s leading medical research arm.

While the legislation has cleared what is typically one of Congress’ biggest hurdles — getting bipartisan support — its prospects are uncertain. It’s difficult getting bills through Congress at any time and the challenges are compounded now by the divisiveness on the Hill and the dwindling number of days on the legislative calendar before the November election.

The group of women will need to get buy-in from their male colleagues to make the money for menopause research a reality. Congress is overwhelmingly represented by men.

Murkowski said she was looking forward to getting support from her male counterparts. “If men went through menopause we would have adequately and appropriately funded the research (into) menopause decades and decades ago.”

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