Advocacy: Democracy’s Most Powerful Ability

It’s said that “a picture is worth 1,000 words,” and of the thousands of images that were captured surrounding the recent debate in our nation’s capital on the fate of the Affordable Care Act, this photo encapsulates a powerful narrative of “ability.”

Showing a disabled American being peacefully removed from the US Capitol following her protest – her body language speaks volumes. Arms held high showing both strength and powerlessness.

Throughout the debate, diverse groups of Americans descended on Washington, DC to express their dismay with the various “repeal-and-replace” bills. Many of these individuals benefit from Medicaid and its suite of services designed to help those who have chronic illnesses or other disabilities who have limited access to resources or are unable to afford health insurance.

Without Medicaid, the quality of their lives would be very negatively impacted as many of these individuals need 24/7 care, access to prescription drugs and other medical equipment like wheelchairs, respirators as well as access to hospital and physician services for ongoing treatment. Regardless of their personal challenges, however, representatives of this notably underrepresented group were able to carry out these protests because they do have access to health care and have been allowed to develop into very much more “abled” individuals than their disabilities might suggest.

The media reported on the various activities of these activists stating, “They kept vigils day and night, sleeping in wheelchairs when necessary. They participated in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience that led to daunting moments of confrontation and removal. They challenged the inaccessibility of public buildings—and public officials. They willingly faced arrest in what they termed a ‘Fight for Life and Liberty’.”

It’s heroes like these and the countless other Americans who tirelessly engaged policymakers with a clear message that politics and party control are no match for the advocacy and spirit of American citizens. Despite the personal, physical and economic cost, these individuals showed up to carry out one of the most fundamental aspects of democracy: advocacy.

Iowa health care advocates can be proud of their efforts to address threats to coverage and care for Iowa’s most vulnerable citizens. More importantly, they can be proud to advocate in concert with courageous Americans like our hero above.