I am a Christian, I am disabled, I am pro-life and I support the effects of activists, like those in Adapt, who are fighting on front lines to stop the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
Part of being pro-life has to involve supporting affordable health care for all, because it should mean preserving life for one’s whole life span, not just until birth. People should not have to die because they cannot afford treatment, and any Republican party that claims to be pro-life but refuses to support policies that preserve life is filled with little more than hypocrites.
I am pro-life for one very personal reason: I began my life as a disabled orphan in the then-Soviet Union and I lived for five and half years in an institutional orphanage. I support access to health care because it allowed me to walk: While my country, Latvia, suffered greatly under the Soviet regime and I was stuck in an orphanage, the Soviet system guaranteed that I was able to get surgery for my club foot. After I was adopted by my American parents, I was still able to get health care to treat my various medical conditions because my father was in the military. But that is not true for all Americans.
Before the ACA was passed, many disabled people who didn’t qualify for Medicaid and didn’t have coverage through an employer had to go without insurance because they had pre-existing conditions. People were denied prenatal care because they could not afford it, forcing them to decide do without, risk miscarriage or have an abortion, which is tantamount to taking the life of the child in utero.
Health care should be easier to access, and repealing the ACA would make it harder to access. Because of the ACA, many people were finally able to get medical treatments without risking years and years of debt because of medical bills. Because of the ACA mandates, I am not denied insurance because of my pre-existing conditions, which include autism, learning difficulties, birth defects and being born prematurely. Before I got pregnant with my own child, I was able to get birth control without a copay, which I needed due to a medical issue caused by menstrual cramps. I can also now get affordable prenatal care for the child I am expecting, including prenatal vitamins, exams and blood tests.
As a person born with disabilities, perhaps I am extraordinarily sensitive to the importance of good prenatal care. I feel that all expectant parents should be able to get such care, and I do not understand how can a person could call themselves pro-life but then deny necessary care to poor pregnant people.
And besides that, many children with disabilities rely on Medicaid for their medical needs. Some of their families may have access to expansive insurance policies but even then, before the ACA, a child with disabilities could have claims denied. The mandates in the ACA and the expansion of Medicaid have allowed more people with disabilities to get the health care we need to allow us to live longer lives.
So when I heard on Tuesday that Senate Republicans voted to start debate over repealing the ACA, my heart sank.
I don’t think it’s fair for them to be debating whether other people will get health care at all when they themselves get government-funded health care. They clearly don’t understand — or maybe don’t care — that affordable health care makes it so that people with disabilities can get support services in their homes and not be confined to institutions, as I was for the first few years of my life.
I currently work as disability rights activist in state of Washington, and many of my fellow advocates and I are terrified of what would happen if the repeal of the ACA ends access to medical care and disability services for many people. I have friends that are utilizing the Medicaid expansion who need cancer treatment; if ACA is repealed they may be denied it. Millions of people will lose their health care.
The ACA is not perfect, but it is still greatly needed. We need to improve the ACA, not repeal it. Nobody that is truly pro-life should be supporting this repeal, because the lives — and not just the births — of people with disabilities matter.