By Allyson Paiewonsky, NWHN Communications Intern
On a hot June day in D.C, I headed to a rally on Capitol Hill to save healthcare with three other summer interns from the National Women’s Health Network. We saw group of protesters waving signs urging the Senate to protect the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and save Medicaid. As we walked towards the lawn of the Capitol building to join the crowd, one of my co-interns asked, “Is this going to be dangerous…?” “What, you didn’t coming ready to fight?” I joked and we all laughed at the thought of getting into a fist fight at a rally on the Hill – don’t worry, we didn’t.
Looking back, I realize we actually were there to fight, maybe not physically, but we were there to fight for our rights and make our voices heard to stand up for women’s health.
Earlier this summer, thirteen male senators drafted a horrible bill, “Trumpcare,” behind closed doors that would take healthcare away from millions of the most vulnerable Americans in order to give tax cuts to the ultra wealthy. Republican Senate leadership drafted this bill with a level of secrecy that hasn’t been seen since before World War I. There were no hearings, no expert testimony, no amendments in committee, and only 20 hours of debate allowed on the floor. Compare that with the 60 hours over 13 days that the Senate discussed, marked up and amended the final Affordable Care Act in 2010.
I couldn’t believe that these senators would shamelessly hide a bill from Congress, from bipartisan health organizations and from the American people, that would significantly impact our health and our day-to-day lives. Trumpcare went through multiple revisions, but at the end of the day, each version meant the same thing – deep cuts to Medicaid and millions left uninsured. These proposed bills were not only atrocious for women, they were bad for everyone.
At the rally to save to the Affordable Care Act on that hot June day, my co-interns and I watched several senators like Cory Booker and Chris Murphy, to name a few, speak about their efforts to protect our care. After the rally each senator took the time to speak with the activists who showed up to fight for their healthcare rights. It was rallies like this one that helped make our voices heard to save the ACA.
This summer’s battle over healthcare showed me the impact that we the people can have on our government. I witnessed firsthand that when we speak out, our representatives are forced to listen. When Senate Republicans threatened to take us back to a time when being a woman was considered a pre-existing condition, women and families showed up to rallies, to town halls and to their senators’ offices and women made the majority of calls to Congress. We’ve been fighting for women’s rights for decades and weren’t just going to stand by when our access to birth control, abortion care, and maternity care was under attack. While we’ve made huge progress in improving and expanding women’s health, we still have a long way to go.
On July 28, in a 2:00 AM vote of 49 to 51, the Senate failed to pass the ACA repeal. Only three Republican senators, Sens. Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and John McCain took a stand and voted to protect our healthcare, putting the needs of their constituents before the demands of the Trump administration. Thanks to their courageous vote, health care is safe…for now.
People just like you and me led the resistance to protect health care this summer. When we come together, we have the power to make the changes we want to see. If we don’t stand up and fight for a just healthcare system, then who will?
That’s why we must keep fighting and never let up when it comes to protecting women’s health and safety. Who’s with me?