We at NETWORK are thrilled by the Supreme Court decision regarding the Affordable Care Act. Since the day we were founded by Catholic sisters 40 years ago, we have lobbied for access to affordable, quality healthcare. Catholic teachings about the common good and dignity of each person instruct us that this is a basic human right.
Because health-care access is an integral part of NETWORK’s mission, some may find it ironic that I was out in the country traveling on the “Nuns on the Bus” tour when the Supreme Court announced its decision in Washington.
Actually, I was in exactly the right place. Traveling from state to state, community to community, I have met hundreds of people representing the millions directly touched by this lifesaving, historic law.
Sunday night, I met a grieving family in Cincinnati who had just come from a memorial service for Margaret, their mother, sister and aunt. Margaret, who was 56 when she died, lacked health-care insurance through her work, and this prevented her from getting medical attention. When she finally saw a doctor, it was too late to save her life.
During our travels, a woman in a wheelchair also showed us the letter she had received saying she would lose dental coverage provided by Medicaid as of July 1.
The stories of the people we have met are real, and they touched our hearts.
When I first learned what the Supreme Court had decided I immediately thought about these wonderful people. And my friends. And my own family. So many people all around me and across the country who had been helped today.
I further reflected on the journey NETWORK had taken from our founding to today. Decades of lobbying members of Congress, testifying on the Hill, organizing our activists, and writing about health care had led to this historic day. Two years ago, I wrote the “nuns’ letter” that was signed by many leaders of U.S. Catholic sisters just prior to the historic vote in Congress. Many considered that one of the critical tipping points that led to the bill’s passing. We never questioned the law’s legality, and the Supreme Court proved us right.
So where do we go from here?
Sadly, the people’s victory is not yet complete.
I found myself somewhat disheartened on Wednesday when I read in Politico that no matter what happened with the Supreme Court, House Republicans would do all they could to make sure the law’s benefits would not reach the people.
So our battles on Capitol Hill will continue.
And people in all the states will watch what happens regarding Medicaid. We have faith that state officials will see that valuing people over politics is the right and moral way to go.
As we work hard on implementation of the law, we will also work to fill in the gaps as we find them.
We want to make the law even stronger, expanding coverage to more immigrants, to more people who struggle to pay for their medical needs, and to others.
Our faith tells us that access to health-care safeguards human life. This law is pro-life and we must do everything possible to preserve and expand its reach.
Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, is executive director of NETWORK, A national Catholic social justice lobby.
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