Orrin Hatch, Elizabeth Warren, Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton team up to fight endometriosis

They are all executive producers of ‘Below the Belt,’ which is airing on PBS.

(Below the Belt) Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Mary Alice Hatch and Sen Orrin Hatch meet to discuss funding for endometriosis research, in a scene from the documentary "Below the Belt," scheduled to air Wednesday, June 21, 2023, on KUED, PBS Utah.

The documentary “Below the Belt: The Last Health Taboo” is full of shocking facts about endometriosis and surprising real-life stories from women who suffer from it. And there is a bit of surprise for Utahns on the political side of the story.

Not only did the late Sen. Orrin Hatch work with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, but he praised her. And hugged her.

Hatch, who retired from the Senate in 2019 and died in April 2022, championed allocating more funds to endometriosis research. As does Warren. And Hillary Rodham Clinton. And Mitt Romney, who succeeded Hatch in the Senate.

All four current and former senators are listed as executive producers of “Below the Belt,” which airs Wednesday at 9 p.m. on PBS/Channel 7. That’s a fairly common way to promote a documentary, and they weren’t actually involved in the production.

Romney and Warren co-hosted a screening of the film in Washington, D.C., in March, and Romney jokingly acknowledged there were strange bedfellows involved: “It is strange … to see Elizabeth Warren and Mitt Romney promoting the same thing,” he said, according to The Hill.

Hatch’s involvement came about because his granddaughter, Emily Hatch Manwaring, is among the one in 10 women who suffers from endometriosis. She and her mother, Mary Alice Hatch, became advocates for more government funding for research.

(According to the Mayo Clinic, endometriosis is “an often painful disorder in which tissue similar to the tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus … grows outside your uterus.” It can “cause pain — sometimes severe,” and “fertility problems also may develop.”)

“Below the Belt” is filled with alarming facts: Most doctors can’t diagnose endometriosis, and don’t know how to treat it. It takes a decade for most women to be diagnosed. Most common treatments — including hysterectomies — don’t work. Most health insurance won’t pay for the most effective treatment.

(Rick Bowmer | AP file photo) Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, gestures to the Utah House during a 2018 visit at the Utah State Capitol.

There are multiple heart-wrenching stories told by suffering women, including Hatch’s granddaughter. Hatch Manwaring began experiencing severe effects of endometriosis when she was just 13. There are home movies of her growing up, dancing, water skiing, learning to drive — and then she is grimacing in pain because it feels “like a knife is going through my stomach.”

In an interview on PBS Newshour, “Below the Belt” director Shannon Cohn said endometriosis advocates began working with Orrin Hatch in 2017 and that he, his granddaughter and his daughter-in-law began “really pushing endometriosis forward in a meaningful way.” And that after Orrin Hatch’s retirement, “Sen. Mitt Romney stepped in his shoes and really pushed it forward alongside Sen. Warren.”

At the March screening at the Hart Senate Office Building, Warren said, “We are all here tonight, in large part, in this room, because of Orrin Hatch.”

Cohen said it was “wonderful to see lawmakers from both sides of the aisle come together on an issue, especially in today’s political climate … and to see them say, ‘What?’ It’s not a political issue. This is a human issue.”

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Sen. Mitt Romney talks with reporters during a visit to the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District's Education Center, May 5, 2023.

In a phone call with his daughter-in-law that is included in the documentary, Orrin Hatch says, “I’ve passed more health care bills than anybody in Congress. I’d hardly ever heard of this until my granddaughter explained it to me. …

“We need to make people aware. I mean, you know, this is a very widespread problem for an awful lot of women. We’ve got to do something about this, and I’m all for it. You’ve got to guide me and help me, that’s all.”

When Mary Alice Hatch says that they need to engage other prominent members of Congress in their efforts, Orrin Hatch replies, “We have some excellent people on the Democratic side. And I think Elizabeth Warren is a good one. She’s a firebrand who irritates most Republicans, but she does not irritate me. So I’d be very happy to work with her. … I can get that done.”

Hatch is praising and promising to work with not just any Democrat, but one of the most liberal and progressive members of the U.S. Senate.

Warren asks how long it takes to get an endometriosis diagnosis, and she is shocked when Mary Alice Hatch says the average time is 10 years. And the Utah senator tells her that he has seen his granddaughter when “she’s doubled up and really can’t stand. … The pain is so intense and so terrible.”

Cameras were there when the Hatches met Warren, and there were hugs all around. Hatch Manwaring hugs Warren and her grandfather. The two senators hug each other … somewhat awkwardly.

“I’m outnumbered,” Orrin Hatch says.

“This is how we get real change,” Warren replies.