I wouldn’t exactly call myself a morning person – but I was awake and ready to go, yesterday at 6:30 in the morning with a bus full of activists and a handful of coffee and snacks. We were on our way to Washington DC to lobby against the harmful and dangerous language in the Stupak Amendment to the House Health Care Bill. The bus was packed and the energy was good. On the bus – we did a quick Lobbying 101. We talked about our messaging; no one should be left behind in health care reform, not women, not immigrants, not Latinas, and not anyone else. We got to the capital ready to tell our senators and representatives that Stupak outrageously extends Hyde and it will hurt women, families and communities.
Once in the capital – it was time to head to the Lobby Day Rally. Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood was leading the rally. There were activists from around the country – including Mississippi, Alabama, Texas and Florida where we need good lobbying and good advocacy. In addition to Cecile Richards, Congressional Representative and Senators from around the country spoke – including Senator Barbara Boxer (D – CA), who noted that ‘we won’t turn our backs on women, we won’t go back!’ All of the speakers noted that passing health care reform on the backs of women can’t and won’t happen – not if we tell our senators and representatives to vote against Stupak or any other similar amendments.
NLIRH’s Executive Director, Silvia Henriquez spoke about health care reform, noting that it can’t be passed on the backs of women or on the backs of immigrants. Latinas, other women of color and immigrants should be able to buy insurance that covers their needs (actually they deserve a whole lot more – which is why we’re still in this fight). People were tweeting all throughout the rally – and reunions between friends were happening all over the place. It’s a powerful thing to bring together activists from all over the country. I connected with friends from as far away as Georgia, and others who live right in DC. There were folks from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, folks from SisterSong and folks from NOW and NARAL chapters across the country. Young people were well represented, energetic and ready to make change.
After the Rally, my group met with a legislative aide to Senator Kay Hutchinson Bailey (the first ever woman Senator from Texas). We spoke about the harm the Stupak Amendment will do to women in families, especially in places like south Texas where poverty reigns and people routinely have to cross the border to get medical care. The Senator hasn’t told us how she’ll vote – but we certainly know this much: those in favor of the Stupak and similar amendments are calling their senators. They are calling their friends in other states and telling them to call their senators. We’ve got to do the same.
On the way back to New York, some folks recounted stories of supportive legislators, but many recounted stories of hostility. One legislative aide said that including immigrants in health care reform was never going to happen.” The activist then got active and explained to the aide that corporations hire immigrants and immigrants therefore pay into the system. There is no way to move forward in the United States of America without keeping immigrants at the forefront of the discussion. This just goes to show you there are some Senators and Representatives who are supportive and some who are downright hostile. Others remain undecided. We’ve got to speak to all of them and let them know that women and immigrants matter and need to be included in health care reform. Call, email, write or visit your senators and representatives. It’s going to be close, so make sure that you thank your supportive Senators and Representatives for having our backs! Reach out to the undecided ones – explain that Stupak extends Hyde and doesn’t allow women to buy health insurance that meet their needs. And, let that hostile Senator or Representative know that you won’t be voting for him or her if they vote in favor of a bill that hurts women and families, immigrants and the health of this nation. It sounds cliché and you’ve heard it a million times – but it’s true – it’s time to tell Stupak to Fall Back and to remind our legislators to pass health care reform that supports women, immigrants, families and communities.
By Adrienne Wallace, Research Intern