Time isn’t on our side– with every day that passes, more than 14,000 people lose their healthcare coverage, more people are forced to declare bankruptcy because of staggering medical costs, and more families go without needed medical care. According to a recent Harvard University study, 45,000 people have died each year from a lack of health insurance.
At noon today, people of faith will gather in Washington, DC (at National City Christian Church) to remember those 45,00 and to call on Congress and the Obama administration to display strong moral leadership. Similar services are happening across the country, from Lexington, KY to Oakland, CA.
Just before this interfaith service in DC, faith leaders came together on Capitol Hill for a prayer rally and press conference to push for necessary fixes to the Senate Finance Committee bill, which still requires families to spend too much on healthcare that covers too little.
Congress has made some important progress on healthcare reform, but we need to keep the momentum going; this is a historic opportunity and we simply can’t afford to miss it.
A short while ago, the Senate Finance Committee approved its healthcare reform bill by a 14-9 vote. One of those 14 was Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), who has been encouraged to support reform by Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant leaders in Maine. (See here for a local news story about one such effort.)
Now that bills have passed all committee votes in both houses of Congress, healthcare reform is headed to the floor. Following a summer of robust, multifaceted advocacy by diverse coalitions of national religious groups, community organizing networks, and local clergy across the country, reform is awfully close to passing, but the struggle isn’t over. In the coming weeks, as all sorts of interest groups descend on Congress for a final lobbying push, faith leaders are organizinglocal events across the country and lobby visits to key legislators to keep the momentum and pressure up.
These female Senators know all too well about these inequities, whether from their own experiences, stories from loved ones, or impassioned pleas from the voters they represent. For instance, Sen. Mary Landrieu told of a constituent of hers, a 25-year-old woman, who spends 20% of her meager income on her health care coverage. Watch the video, from Jodi Jacobson at RH Reality Check:
And it’s not just Senators who are speaking up– the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice sent out an action alert to its members this week, asking them to contact their Member of Congress and urge them to end the discriminatory practice of using domestic violence as a pre-existing condition for health coverage.
Couldn’t this be such a fertile place for common ground? No woman should be discriminated against because she bore a child or was a victim of domestic violence. Surely, we can all agree on that.
The Florida Baptist Witness reports that Richard Land, President of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, recently made some extreme allegations about health care reform:
What they are attempting to do in healthcare, particularly in treating the elderly, is not something like what the Nazis did. It is precisely what the Nazis did.
This accusation is shocking enough, but Land doesn’t stop there. He goes on to single out President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, the Democratic Party, and “the government,” accusing them of supporting euthanasia-like policies and practicing a “biological bigotry that is feeding a euthanasia mentality.”
Land’s comments are troubling on a number of levels.
First, they are just flat-out wrong. Neutral sources FactCheck.org and Politifact.com have de-bunked claims that health care reform promotes euthanasia (via government rationing, “death counseling” or “death books”) time and time and time again.
Second, while it is certainly possible, and valid, to have a civil debate regarding the net effects of health care reform, Land’s assertions are in another realm entirely. He takes an extreme leap of bad faith in assigning health reform advocates (including many Jewish groups) the genocidal intent of Nazis. His assertion that those who call for reform actually want seniors and those with disabilities to die is not at all in line with available evidence, especially given that the government has traditionally stepped in to offer more access to health care, particularly for vulnerable populations. Medicare is a perfect example of this as immediately prior to its creation in 1965 over half of seniors were uninsured because they were unable to afford or access the private insurance market.
Third, what does this rhetoric mean for our public discourse and the future of politics in our country, and what does it say about faith in the public square?
I believe in (and the Constitution protects) free speech; Dr. Land should of course be legally permitted to say whatever he wants. I have to wonder though, is this a Christ-like way for a Christian leader to engage in a public debate? Dr. Land’s polemical statements about the intentions of those who support reform do a disservice to the discussion, and I worry about where such incendiary and inaccurate speech takes us. Casting healthcare reform as some kind of proto-Holocaust can only serve to scare and inflame his audience, and the consequences could be severe.
UPDATE: Land has written a letter apologizing to the Anti-Defamation League stating, in part, “I was using hyperbole for effect and never intended to actually equate anyone in the Obama administration with Dr. Mengele.”
Thank goodness Sen. John Kyl doesn’t speak for all pro-lifers:
While his desire to keep health care costs down is understandable, this attitude about the importance of maternity care from someone who brands himself as “pro-life” isn’t.
Maternity care is expensive. It doesn’t take too much imagination to think that a woman with few financial resources might take those costs into consideration when deciding whether to carry a pregnancy to term.
Since child bearing and it’s costs impacts women most directly, expanding access to quality maternity care is an important plank in the emerging common ground platform on abortion.