By Crystal Defatte
My fellow Americans, it is time that we take a good hard look at who we really are. We are a society that claims to believe that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are inalienable rights endowed by our creator (if you believe in that sort of thing), and yet we treat these things as if they are negotiable. I could go on about how hypocritical it is that a country that values liberty so much has the highest incarceration rate in the world, or about how pursuing happiness in a nation with such staggering income inequality and little opportunity for upward mobility is almost laughable, but I’ll leave those for another day. Today I want to talk about the most fundamental of all rights, the one that should be the biggest “given”, the right to life. You may have a right to life, but that doesn’t mean this country wants to actually preserve it. Forget Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, and All Lives Matter; the truth is this country has collectively agreed that No Lives Matter.
Jimmy Kimmel, host of the tv show “Jimmy Kimmel Live”, told the story of the birth of his new baby boy in his opening monologue a few weeks ago. His son was born with a heart disease that required immediate surgery and will require at least two more surgeries before he reaches adulthood. After telling the story and thanking the staff at the two hospitals that cared for his son, Billy, Kimmel went on to talk about how President Trump had proposed a six billion dollar cut to the National Institute of Health just a couple months ago. He praised Congress for rejecting that and for actually raising their budget before going on to talk about how before the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, people born with his son’s condition would be uninsurable because they were born with a pre-existing condition. He made the point that if someone born with this condition had parents who were uninsured they may die before they even get a chance to be denied the insurance coverage needed to pay for treatment. Though never using the words “universal health care”, he went on to make a case for it by saying:
“If your baby is going to die and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make. I think that’s something that whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat or something else, we all agree on that, right?”
No, Jimmy, it is not something we can all agree on. Former Republican Congressman Joe Walsh responded by tweeting:
“Sorry Jimmy Kimmel: your sad story doesn’t obligate me or anybody else to pay for somebody else’s healthcare.”
Little Billy Kimmel is America’s favorite type of baby; he’s the adorable male child of a rich, white, heterosexual, married couple. If that kind of baby can’t elicit enough sympathy for us to all agree babies shouldn’t have to die needlessly, there’s not much hope for anyone or their children.
Apparently, Walsh’s former colleagues in the House of Representatives agreed because they passed measures that would allow states to relax some key Obamacare protections of those with pre-existing conditions. Every single vote in favor of it came from a Republican. This is the party who prides itself on being “pro-life”. These Representatives campaigned on the promise of repealing and replacing Obamacare while admitting they had no idea what they would replace it with. This wasn’t some secret, this was a major selling point for many Republican candidates. Constituents either knew of their plans to ensure millions of Americans go back to being uninsured, left to face the possibility of not being able to afford the care necessary to live, or they just didn’t care enough about the lives of others to learn about what exactly their Republican candidates were promising.
Now it’s the Senate’s turn to consider whether they will leave millions of Americans to die. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Vice President Mike Pence are having a “power lunch” today to see how this “Trumpcare” bill can move forward. “We’re hanging by a thread right now,” one GOP aide told CNN Monday night. There needs to be a “motion to proceed” in order to get to the bill or any of the amendments which may be difficult because of a key set of Republican holdouts. These include Senators Ron Johnson (WI), Susan Collins (ME), Dean Heller (NV), and Rand Paul (KY) (who only seems to be against it because it doesn’t go far enough to dismantle our current health care protections). Undeclared Senators include Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Mike Lee (UT). Notably missing from the unsure or unsupportive list of Senators are Iowa’s Senators Chuck Grassley, who can be reached at (202) 224-3744, and Joni Ernst who can be reached at (202) 224-3254.
The only positive of this bill is that it would include deficit reductions in the ballpark of $321 billion between 2017 and 2026. Unfortunately, this reduction would largely come from reducing spending on Medicaid and eliminating the Affordable Care Act’s subsidies. Medicaid spending is estimated to decline by 26 percent by 2026. If we can agree that the lives of the people of this nation do in fact matter, I would encourage everyone to call their Senators to assert that no deficit reduction is worth leaving the neediest to die. This healthcare bill is just another form of eugenics designed to kill the poor. If we truly value life, we must not let this stand; not in a country that calls life an inalienable right.
Crystal is a 32 year old mom with a passion for progressive politics and activism. She currently resides in Bettendorf, IA.