It was 5:53 in the morning. The rain was pouring down, and the No. 6 train uptown was now ten minutes late. None of that mattered though, I was excited. I knew that in just a few hours I would be in a different city, completely, being an advocate for what I believe in. I was going to participate in a rally that would voice concerns over the Stupak-Pitts Amendment to Health Care. While representing NLIRH as an intern, and with other advocacy groups like Planned Parenthood, the Feminist Majority Foundation, NARAL, Advocates for Youth, NOW, the Hispanic Federation, Voces Latinas, the Pro-Choice Education Project, and countless others, I was going to stand up for women’s and reproductive rights.
The Stupak Amendment does not affect only women and people of color. As a man, I understand that my voice against human rights violations is just as important. My intersections of identity — man, Latino, gay, Catholic — are all important in fighting for equality. Some people think that just because you’re a man, you can’t be a feminist. The truth is, I am a man AND I am a feminist. I have no place in taking away the human rights of a woman. That said, I will continue to fight these rights. The bus we took to D.C. We were all united for women’s rights, regardless of gender, race or age.
NLIRH’s “Stop Stupak” bus to Washington, D.C. was racially diverse and had men, women and children in attendance. I finally arrived at 6 in the morning and helped load the bus with 2 other NLIRH interns. We wore t-shirts emblazoned with our cause, Salud, Dignidad y Justicia, and left from NARAL’s New York Office. As we took attendance on the bus and set off for D.C., there was a collective spirit of advocacy. We arrived at Union Station 4 hours later and went straight to business.
The fifty activists on our bus, along with hundreds of other activists from around the U.S. attended a vibrant rally, calling to Stop Stupak and protect women’s rights. There were women, men and children of all races holding banners and posters. Everywhere I looked, I saw signs, buttons, and people chanting against Stupak. It was an amazing experience to be in there. Afterward, my group and I met with Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and told her how we felt:
- The Stupak-Pitts Amendment is Bad for Latinas: Latinas, immigrants, and women of color are disproportionately affected by the Stupak-Pitts amendment. Because women of color and immigrants are disproportionately poor, they are less likely to be able to pay for abortion care out-of-pocket, which puts them at risk of seeking alternative methods that are not supervised by a physician and are less safe.
- No Woman Should be Worse Off as a Result of Health Care Reform: We may not all feel the same way about abortion, but the debate over health reform shouldn’t take away a woman’s decision-making ability and allow politicians to make decisions for her.
- Immigrant Women Must Not Be Excluded From This Process: If the final bill doesn’t recognize and appreciate the changing face of American demographics, it will be outdated even before it gets implemented. Denying immigrants health care is based on discriminatory ideology instead of common-sense public health policy.
- The 5-Year Ban for Legal Permanent Residents to Participate in Public Programs Such as Medicaid is Discriminatory and Should be Lifted as a Part of Health Care Reform: Currently, 17.5% of women of reproductive age on Medicaid are Latinas. Medicaid reduces financial barriers that exist to provide essential reproductive health care services for low-income women. The exclusion of new immigrants from Medicaid is not only unjust, but also bad public health policy.
- Undocumented Immigrants Should be Allowed to Use Their Own Money to Buy Health Insurance in the Exchange: Increased participation in the exchange will make insurance cheaper for everyone– policies that do not allow undocumented persons to use their own money to buy insurance through the exchange are discriminatory, short-sighted, and damaging to everyone.
I am proud to be a NLIRH intern. Last week, we worked together with women, immigrants, and people of color from around the country to express our anger at Stupak and prevent an attack on women and immigrant’s rights.
In this country, it can be easy to get lost in the maze of government bureaucracy. What I did on December 2nd made me realize that we can work together to express our concern over the lack of responsibility of our representatives—and they will listen. We told our representatives what we believed in and experienced first-hand the beginning step for change. If the journey of a million miles begins with one step, then on Wednesday, December 2nd, NLIRH took a couple thousands steps. After meeting with Senator Hutchison, the other interns and I dropped off talking points with Senator John Kerry and Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, and then we watched Senators Gillibrand and Schumer rally supports and confirm that they were on our side.
By 5:50 that night, 12 hours after our day had started, the bus was loaded with NLIRH activists and we were on our way back to New York City. Although we were more tired than I can describe, no one slept on the bus. We all swapped stories, strategies and potential next steps in this movement.
December 2nd was a busy and long day—yet we managed. As an intern at NLIRH, I am learning the truth behind SALUD, DIGNIDAD, and JUSTICIA. It’s more than just health, dignity, and justice… it’s the ability to feel safe, to stand up for what is right, to defend, and to be proud.