Writing in The Hill on Monday, anti-poverty crusader Sister Simone Campbell took Senate Republicans to task regarding their healthcare bill—and the implications it has for millions of Americans, particularly women and children.
As the executive director of NETWORK, the Catholic social justice lobbying group, Sister Simone has been a vocal advocate for the expansion of health coverage for Americans and for ending income inequality. While many in Washington see healthcare as a controversial issue, for Sister Simone, it couldn't be more simple. For her, she writes, "it boils down to making sure that as many people as possible have access to life-saving healthcare coverage."
Sister Simone has gained a progressive following—and drawn ire from the Catholic Church—for her staunch support of abortion rights. But today she repeated her belief that a pro-life agenda must prioritize the lives of American women and families, not just unborn children.
"...As Senate Republicans seek to rush through a plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act in the most secretive manner, I want to call their bluff on their proclaimed pro-life stance...The House and Senate healthcare proposals are the antithesis of a pro-life stance and needs to be named as such. People will lose their lives if this bill becomes law."
Economists estimate that between 15 million and 22 million Americans could lose health coverage if the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BRCA) passes. Many of those who would lose care are those who rely on Medicaid, which was expanded in 31 states under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. As Sister Simone writes,
"This bill preys on the most vulnerable!...Medicaid dollars benefit seniors residing in nursing homes, including many Catholic Sisters who have served their entire lives tending to the most vulnerable. It also affects people with disabilities, whose care can be too expensive for a family to manage. But, Republican efforts to cut Medicaid funding arbitrarily will jeopardize their lives and wellbeing."
Sister Simone's opposition to the bill stands in stark contrast to the lawmakers who authored it; the BRCA was written in closed-door sessions attended by just 13 Republicans—all of them male. She writes that myriad women's healthcare needs, including childbirth, appear to have been almost wholly ignored by the GOP.
"...what many don’t know is that 45 percent of births in the United States are paid for by Medicaid. The Senate bill ends Medicaid as we know it, and as a result these "pro-life" members of Congress are actually disregarding the needs of moms and their newborn children. Supporting Medicaid funding is a pro-life stance."
Supporters of the Affordable Care Act are putting pressure on Republican senators this week, urging them not to support the new bill. The GOP can only afford to lose two votes for the BRCA, and Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia are among the so-called moderate Republicans who could vote against it. While 13 men were tasked with writing a bill that could jeopardize women's healthcare, Sister Simone Campbell is one of many progressives who are waiting to see if Republican women will do anything to block the legislation.