By Kara D. Ryan, Senior Research Analyst, Health Policy Project
Every day is a fantastic day to be a health equity advocate, but Tuesday was especially meaningful for me. I was lucky enough to be on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court building with hundreds of my fellow advocates. Being in a crowd full of people from all racial and ethnic backgrounds, chanting in both English and Spanish with messages supporting health care for all--it was both humbling and invigorating.
Monday through Wednesday, demonstrators have turned out in droves (some with their pets) to make their voices heard on whether the Supreme Court should uphold the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the historic health reform law that promises to make health care more affordable for millions of uninsured Americans. (Read our posts breaking down each day of oral arguments, as well as what's at stake--or rather, who's at stake--in the case for civil rights law, seniors, and small businesses, among others). I've been at the court each day to document the massive outpouring of support for a health care system that brings us closer to realizing health equity. But like I said: Tuesday was my favorite day.
I got my first taste of supporters' energy before I'd even reached the court steps. I heard them coming--women and men, clad in pink, holding signs reading "Protect Women's Health," marching two-by-two to take up their positions in the rally of supporters. After they passed, I headed to the court, where supporters continued to spill onto the plaza as well as the grounds of the U.S. Capitol across the street. Drums and tambourines kept the beat for the supporters marching in a long line that looped down the sidewalk, and I couldn't help but sing along: "The health law is for you, the health law is for me, the health law is for every American family!" Opponents of the law were on hand, and occasionally the two sides would exchange words--one woman materialized beside me and shouted, "Who's gonna pay for it?" at a singing, dancing supporter--but all kept their tempers and the march continued peacefully.
As I took some video, a woman in purple on my left said to me, "Isn't this great? It's got such a civil rights vibe." Turns out I was standing beside Dr. Toni Lewis from SEIU, a major champion for health equity. I was thrilled to have an opportunity to chat with her one-on-one, and took advantage of the moment to ask her to say a few words on film. Here's what she had to say:
Next up, I crossed a street to take in the scene and wound up talking to a medical student named Colin, who had spotted my t-shirt that matched his "I [heart] Health Equity" button on his white lab coat. Colin was at the rally because he wants to focus on keeping his patients healthy and happy, not worrying whether they will have to forgo the care, treatments, or medicines they need because they are unaffordable. This is a particular concern to Latinos, by the way, who are more likely than non-Hispanic Whites to live with financial insecurity and skip necessary health care due to cost.
I headed back across the street to join the marchers, who were then chanting "We! Love! Obamacare!" Then our friends at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH), resplendent in blue and yellow ribbons and signs proclaiming "Soy Poderosa," switched up the chant to "Yo! Quiero! Obamacare!" The chant spread quickly, and soon the whole crowd was chanting in Spanish. (Check out one of my favorite tweets in response.) I asked two NLIRH staffers, Natalie and Anjela, to step out of line and speak on video about why the health reform law is so important to Latinas. Here's what they had to say:
In the early afternoon, I left with my NCLR colleagues to refuel with some food and head back to upload the videos and pictures from the rally. The day had also refueled me spiritually. For those of you who couldn't be there on the Supreme Court steps, know that we at NCLR stand with you in solidarity and we'll keep pushing to protect and build upon health care gains for Latinos and other underserved communities.
This was first posted to the NCLR Blog.