Archives for category: health care
Hundreds of protesters in Madison, WI's capitol rotunda

Photo credit: NY Times

During the last few days, I have been riveted as the people of Wisconsin have been showing up in the thousands to protest Governor Scott Walker’s budget proposal:

Behind closed doors, Scott Walker, the Republican who has been governor for about six weeks, calmly described his intent to forge ahead with the plans that had set off the uprising: He wants to require public workers to pay more for their health insurance and pensions, effectively cutting the take-home pay of many by around 7 percent.

He also wants to weaken most public-sector unions by sharply curtailing their collective bargaining rights, limiting talks to the subject of basic wages.

By taking away union workers’ collective bargaining rights, Walker is directly targeting the dignity of workers not only in Wisconsin, but the entire nation. Walker is also proposing to remove the ability to cut the budget of Medicaid – an essential health care program for low-income people – from the Legislature, putting the decision to slash the program’s budget in the hands of the governor’s Department of Health and Human Services. This measure could lead to deep cuts in the health care of some of the most vulnerable people in the state. As state budget crises need to be resolved, conservative governors from states across the country are watching to see if Walker can pull this off.

Governor Walker’s proposal has implications for all people in Wisconsin, but the hardest hit would be the most vulnerable. Labor is a reproductive justice issue: ability to negotiate for adequate wages and quality health care is essential for women and our families. Moreover, putting Medicaid in the hands of the governor essentially leaves one person deciding on the health low-income people, and this is unacceptable. At a time in which people are struggling more than ever due to an economic downturn, the last thing we should do is make it easier to cut safety-net programs.

But the people of Wisconsin are rising up to the challenge. Massive protests have hit the Capitol in Madison, with people occupying the building starting yesterday; huge numbers of teachers called in sick on Tuesday in protest, forcing schools to close; Wisconsin’s football team (and Super Bowl champions!), the Green Bay Packers, put out a statement in support of public sector workers; and today, the Democratic caucus of the Senate refused to show up for the vote – leaving Wisconsin so that the state police had no jurisdiction over them – delaying a vote on the measure, and giving the people more time to organize, due to a lack of quorum.

The energy is palpable, and as a former resident of the state I am both inspired by and proud of the people of Wisconsin this week. If you would like to support the efforts of some of the finest organizers I know, I encourage you to send a check to the Student Labor Action Coalition, who is taking part in the sit-ins and needs to raise funds for legal defense:

SLAC

c/o Eric Hoyt

140 W. Gilman St.

Madison, WI 53703

¡Si se puede!

When HR3, or the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, started getting attention, I was initially pretty excited. But over and over when I read about it, I was dismayed to find media focusing on one piece – a sentence about redefining rape, saying that an abortion could be federally funded only if a woman had survived a “forcible rape.” Let me get this out there right away: this language is revolting, sexist, and absolutely, bottom-line unacceptable. There are many others who have written very articulately about why this is, and I don’t think I need to go into it; it is disgusting and unacceptable, period. People were angry, and rightfully so; they protested the language. What made me upset about focusing on this language is that it mostly ignored the fact that it was just a shitty sentence in a steaming pile of shit of a bill. Yes, redefining rape is egregious and wrong, but isn’t also denying low-income women basic health care?

The media’s focus on this particular language made me upset because this entire media frenzy regarding the redefining of rape is indicative of classism and racism. It ignored the fact that, even without this re-definition, getting an abortion covered by Medicaid for a pregnancy that was the result of rape – any sort of rape – is currently nearly impossible; it ignores the fact that not allowing federal funding for abortion essentially strips low-income women of their right to an easy, legal, basic health procedure. Yes, redefining rape is beyond atrocious, but when we focus on this language are we really seeing the whole picture?  While people of all backgrounds can be and are victims of sexual violence, only poor women – disproportionately women of color – will ever be denied Medicaid coverage of their abortion; it’s not a coincidence which got media attention.

Since the media blitz on HR3, the language that would have redefined rape was removed, but to what effect? We are left with a bill that will continue to deny women basic coverage, expanding prohibitions currently for low-income women into the tax code, and a Congress that can now say that they have compromised to make this a reasonable bill. Some say that HR3 is “just” codifying the status quo; others say that it is far more that “just” the status quo. But let’s be clear: the status quo is not ok. Creating a differential system of access to abortion for low-income women was as wack in 1976 as it is now, and referring to “just” the status quo ignores a very major problem.

My goal here is not to point fingers; I understand the outrage around the “forcible rape” language. But it’s hard to watch an entirely fucked up bill get so much attention without calling out the obvious: that our politicians are so deluded, so unaware about the realities of women in this country, that they are focusing their efforts to get the economy back on track on denying women control over their own reproductive lives. It’s hard to watch a bill about public funding for abortion get so much press only to hear so few voices reminding us that denying public funding for abortion is fucked up, creates a differential system of access for low-income women, and disproportionately affects women of color.

In 1977, Rosie Jimenez – a college student on Medicaid – was the first person who died because of the Hyde Amendment, which prohibited federal funding for abortion the year before. Even though abortion had become legal in 1973, because Medicaid did not cover it and she could not afford the full cost of the procedure, she went to an unlicensed provider. When we talk about the status quo, we have to remember Rosie, and the hundreds of thousands of women who have since been denied access to the procedure because of Hyde ever since. History is important, y’all; let’s not forget what this is all about. The status quo is NOT OK.

image shows doors that are closed: school, heatlh, housing, seniors, youth, libraries, etc.  a barred gate (prison) is open.

Since December 9th, thousands of prisoners in Georgia have been on strike, in what is apparently the largest prisoner protest in U.S. history:

Thousands of men, from Augusta, Baldwin, Hancock, Hays, Macon, Smith and Telfair State Prisons, among others, initiated this strike to press the Georgia Department of Corrections (“DOC”) to stop treating them like animals and slaves and institute programs that address their basic human rights. Read the rest of this entry »

a woman with long, dark hair wiping her nose with a tissue

What I am up to today.

I am sick today.  It’s not so bad – just a cold, but it’s uncomfortable and shitty in addition to inopportune timing, but don’t we always get sick at the worst time?  I have been traveling a lot for my job, and because airports are disgusting cesspools of disease I actually expected to be sick around this time.  After much hand-washing, however, I escaped unscathed from the airport’s dirty little paws, only to come home to a girlfriend who would become sick a couple of days later.

By now you are wondering: when does paid sick leave come in?  If your job sends you traveling about, doesn’t it give you paid sick leave?  Why yes! Yes it does, and it is awesome.  But my girlfriend, however, does not have paid sick leave at the juice bar where she works.  The reason that she is sick now: one of her coworkers refused to go home when she was sick, infecting my girlfriend and surely anyone who came into the tiny New York City space. I am sure my girlfriend’s coworker did not refuse to go home because she is careless or malicious; being sick sucks, and working a food service job while sick is not super fun.  My guess is that, if she could have gone home without it affecting her income -if she could have taken care of herself and others around her in a way that did not negatively affect her livelihood – she probably would have gone home.  Wouldn’t you?

New York City was pretty close to requiring paid sick leave for every worker until Speaker Quinn rejected the proposal last month, citing the economy.  It’s really unfortunate, because people need paid sick leave especially when they are struggling to make ends meet; not making rent or being able to pay the bills without the money from a particular shift is great motivation to stay at work sick. For the people who have to care for sick children, who are overwhelmingly women, taking care of your sick child might mean risking eviction or getting your utilities cut off.  Paid sick a women’s rights issue, a queer liberation issue, an economic justice issue, a racial justice issue.

I am a lucky one – I have paid sick leave from my job.  But I still got sick because there’s no requirement to provide workers with paid sick leave in New York City, as I am sure every wealthy person who got raw vegan takeout from the juice bar that day did as well.  Me getting sick is certainly not the worst consequence (or even that bad of a consequence, let’s be honest, I probably was gonna get a cold sometime this season anyway) of no paid sick leave for workers, but the point I am trying to make is that for those of us who do have paid sick leave, this is more than a solidarity issue.  So, my message to wealthy New Yorkers with paid sick leave: the next time this comes around, and you or someone you know feels that this is not your issue, remember that your fancy raw vegan takeout – the one with all the right amino acids and acai berry and coconut water and shit – will sometimes come with a side of disease-ridden snot until the workers that are serving you have paid sick leave.  Gross, right?  Paid sick leave for all workers: Get on that shit.

Red sign that says "Emergency" with an arrow on it, and some tree branches next to it.

Photo credit: SEIU

Hey everyone! Glad to be back. I’ve been out for a few of days because I’m recovering from surgery, and the road to where I am today in terms of my health has been a bit bumpy.  Bumpy in ways that reveal the cracks in our health care system, and the systematic denial of quality care to marginalized groups of people.  Let me tell you all about it. Read the rest of this entry »