post by Jenny Ye, freshman from NYC
Yesterday, my friends and I joined Planned Parenthood of New York City and Family Planning Advocates of New York State at a day of action in Albany. As Congress works in conference on national healthcare reform, New York groups highlighted crucial statewide legislation that protects and funds reproductive healthcare at the first day of New York’s 2010 legislative session.
To my surprise, the drive from Manhattan to Albany is only three hours! I always imagined Albany being extremely far away, something like six hours away. My friends and I met up at 6:30am to walk to PPNYC offices to get on the bus.
Some key facts I learned while prepping on the bus:
For every $1 spent on family planning services in New York, $4 in Medicaid costs are saved – in the same budget year.
For every Medicaid dollar New York spends on family planning, the federal government reimburses the state 90 cents.
More than 6 in 10 patients receiving care at a women’s health center consider it their primary source of health care.
When we arrived, leaders of Family Planning Advocates, as well as a list of New York State leaders welcomed us. Our (very funny) Governor Paterson emphasized that, “one place we definitely need to keep politics out of is a woman’s right to choose.”
After the speakers, we headed for lunch in the Capitol Deli, and then to a Q&A with author Michelle Goldberg, who discussed the reproductive justice movement on the global scale.
Although we were supposed to meet with a staff member of our assemblymen, Speaker Silver, we couldn’t enter the building (we don’t have drivers licenses!). Instead, we joined the group meeting with our State Senator Daniel Squadron. In the meeting, we spoke to his staff member about the importance of the Reproductive Health Act and comprehensive sex-ed. It was great to hear the stories of all the New Yorkers in the room, who ranged from teachers, to lawyers, to mothers, to students!
We moved from a conference room to the Senate Chamber to meet Senator Squadron and reiterate our lobbying points. Surprisingly, Senator Squadron and I bonded over dumplings. It was great to hear his support for reproductive healthcare, and such a cool experience to be in the Senate Chamber.
Yesterday reminded me how pressing these issues are. Supporting women’s health is not only important for our collective wellbeing, but it also makes budgetary sense. I saw many New York legislators stand up for comprehensive reproductive healthcare, and I hope that legislators in Washington are doing the same in conference.
To put pressure on legislators in Congress, please sign this petition:
post by Jenny Ye, freshman at Harvard from New York City
On Wednesday, December 2, I went to DC join over 1,000 supporters for the National Day of Action to lobby for healthcare reform, against Stupak. Traveling alone, and representing Harvard, I had a whirlwind of a day in the capital, joining fellow citizens in demanding our elected officials to stand up for women’s rights.
After getting on the first Red Line T out of Harvard Station (5:30am), I made it to Logan with ample time before my 6:50 flight to Baltimore. In Baltimore, I waited over a half hour for the Amtrak to DC (woops, didn’t check the schedule beforehand) and knew that I would be very late to the briefings in the Dirksen building. When I finally arrived, I was greeted by volunteers and took as any stickers, pins, and flyers I saw. Planned Parenthood also handed out pretty pink t-shirts! Who doesn’t like pretty pink t-shirts?
I entered the Auditorium at Dirksen, to find an energized crowd preparing for the day.
Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards ended the briefing with a role call; it was clear that there were activists present from every part of the country.
I looked for the New York delegation as the briefing adjourned, and found a group of students from the Columbia University School of Public Health. They, and the Executive Director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum were planning to meet with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s legislative aides. They invited me to join them, and I was on my way to my first appointment! Rather than meeting in an office, we met in a hallway of the Russell building to discuss the Stupak amendment. Senator Gillibrand is opposed to the Stupak language of the healthcare bill, and we were thankful for this. We urged for her to be a leader in making sure this language doesn’t pass in the Senate. In addition to the Stupak debate, Gillibrand’s aides noted that the issue of health insurance for immigrants is also crucial. It was great to hear that Senator Gillibrand is addressing healthcare reform on multiple fronts. Our meeting was brief, but it was encouraging.
Before heading to the noon rally back at Dirksen, I joined the New York group for coffee in the basement of the Russell building. The group was from all around the country as well, and they were united as public health students concerned how healthcare reform will affect women everywhere.
Next I returned to the Dirksen Auditorium for the noon rally. The main auditorium, along with an overflow room, was filled with supporters. It was time to break out the Harvard Students Stop Stupak sign.
At the rally, 14 members of Congress along with a list of amazing representatives from wonderful organizations spoke to the energized crowd.
Before we adjourned, we turned around to face the cameras above us for a group photo.
Look at the top left of the photo! The sign reads “Harvard students say: Healthcare YES Stupak NO”
In the afternoon, I had planned on going to some of the meetings with representatives from Illinois but stumbled upon more New Yorkers heading to meetings. (New Yorkers just find each other!) I ended up with a group from NARAL Pro-Choice NY, meeting with my own representative, Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez. We met with the congresswoman and one of her assistants, in her office! Velasquez, a pro-choice champion, expressed incredible leadership and also mentioned the importance for Catholic women like her to speak up for women’s rights. Yet another encouraging meeting. I love New York!
I head over early to the debriefing session in the Rayburn building to find the room filling with supporters and snacks. I found a seat and started connecting with the people around me. To my left sat a woman named Emily from Wisconsin. She had been on a 17 hour bus ride to get to DC, and this wasn’t her first time! (The first time was when Bush announced the troop surge in Iraq) It was incredible see such dedication and commitment.
When the debriefing began, I got up to the microphone in the back to give my comments on the day. I was inspired by the welcoming, passionate citizens that surrounded me, and felt like I had made many new friends over the course of a couple of hours. Many others followed me at the mic, reporting back from meetings with reps from Maine, Virginia, Illinois, Connecticut … They had thanked those who said no to Stupak, and demanded others to do the same.
I had to leave the debrief session early to catch my 6:30pm flight. Waiting until the last train possible, I ran to Union station, and caught the MARC to BWI. Although I made it from DC to BWI in 30 minutes, I found out that my flight back to Boston was canceled, and that I would have to wait till the next flight at 6:30am the next day. A free night at the Sheraton BWI didn’t sound too bad.
If I could sum up the impression that I left with, I’d say that I felt like a part of an incredible, intergenerational, multiracial, multiregional coalition of feminists that has been united and energized. (Wow that’s a mouthful) Thank you to all the amazing people that I met. The national lobby day was a great boost of momentum, but it taught me that the effort is not a one-day thing. It is more important than ever to call in to senators and demand that Stupak-like language does not get passed. If I may quote Loretta Ross from Wednesday, “Congress this is your memo: women are not your problem, women are your solution.”
Here comes the next generation of leaders.
Ever since the Stupak amendment forced students nationwide to wake up from their complacency surrounding the fight for choice and comprehensive women’s health care, there has been a reinvigoration of student passion, verve, and drive to act. Two weeks ago, I wrote about the first Students Stop Stupak rally that we planned here at Harvard University. That event proved a success: upwards of a hundred people, undergraduates, graduate students, and engaged passersby, joined in to protest. Shouting, “Health Care YES, Stupak NO” and “Stop Stupak Now!” we forced Cambridge residents, Harvard students, and local and national media to listen to us.
As we are now discovering, this is not just a one shot deal or a one-time success. Students Stop Stupak is flourishing, not shriveling: it has quickly grown from a singular event to a movement of its own, both at Harvard and at campuses across the country. On our campus, Students for Choice membership has exploded, with membership increasing over 800% (ok, maybe we only had five to begin with, but still…). Harvard’s Stop Stupak activism has grown exponentially within the past two weeks alone (our facebook group, composed only of Harvard students already boasts over 250 members), and now we’re joining in with the national current. This week, in conjunction with action events around the country, student representatives from 72 different campuses (including Harvard) are storming the capitol to lobby Senators to stand up for women’s choice and to oppose Stupak.
So what are we doing here at Harvard for tomorrow’s national effort to Stop Stupak? We’re hosting a Call Congress event, in order to get as many people, from as many states as possible, to call their Senators and ask them to oppose Stupak. We’ll capitalize on Harvard’s geographic diversity to make a national impact in the fight for equal, comprehensive, health care reform.
While Stupak may have set out to pass the health care reform bill by limiting women’s access to abortion coverage, he incited a significant externality: the 21st century of American pro-choice leadership is emerging on college campuses nationwide. Step aside, anti-choice democrats: young pro-choicers are on their way to the Capitol.
Join us on WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 2, 2009 from 4:00-4:30 OUTSIDE THE HOLYOKE CENTER IN HARVARD SQUARE!
Click here to let us know you’re coming!
You know that your issue has hit a nerve when Cosmopolitan is asking their readers to sign a Planned Parenthood petition.
by Leah Stern
Harvard Kennedy School
For three years, I have worked in the community of women’s rights organizations in Washington, DC. I was totally committed; I was a part of the fight, and I worked to make sure women had access to health care every day. Then, just as I started working as a self-employed consultant (read: no health insurance) for the World Bank Institute, the health care debate really heated up, and I found myself contemplating the significance of the reform efforts in a whole new light. The new health care exchange would be for many kinds of people, and one of those kinds would be people like me: young people who don’t necessarily think we need health insurance until something goes wrong.
The Stupak-Pitts amendment that got attached to the House version of the bill is a particularly pernicious anti-choice measure that is directly aimed at people like me. If included in the final bill, it would mean that I wouldn’t be able to buy a plan on the exchange that included coverage for abortion, a crucial health service for women of reproductive age. It is especially unfortunate that this amendment was to such an important bill, which would extend crucial coverage to the millions of Americans without it.
Those of us who care about freedom and choice have decided that this is unacceptable. We will not permit the continued marginalization of abortion. Instead, we are standing up and insisting that reproductive health care is health care. I am part of a group of graduate and undergraduate students at Harvard (I’m at the Kennedy School of Government) that organized a rally for the Harvard community to demand that our elected representatives fight for a strong, pro-women health care reform bill.
On Wednesday afternoon, more than 200 people gathered at the Harvard Square T stop to stand up for women’s reproductive health. Harvard undergrads stood shoulder-to-shoulder with grad students, community members, and longtime activists for women’s rights, including Institute of Politics fellows Gina Glantz and former NOW President Kim Gandy.
People in every corner of my new community are passionately working to make sure that we pass a health care reform bill that works for women. We expect our elected representatives to do the same.
Here’s what you can do:
Follow @stopstupaknow on Twitter for updates.
Join our Facebook group: Students Stop Stupak.
Check out our website for ongoing action.
Stay tuned for more action alerts and ideas, and in the meantime, please contact your elected representatives and tell them to stand up for health care for all.