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 roll 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.
Cecile Richards said “We need to tell the government: hands off our bodies, and hands out of our pocketbooks!”
Representative Jerry Nadler from New York. “Compromises need to be made sometimes, but not on this issue.”
Congresswoman Diana DeGette from Colorado. “I feel like the reinforcements have arrived.”
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.”
Don’t let me down, DC!