Health care justice is racial justice

All people are created equal
and deserve equal access to health care

by Sara Wright

This Mother’s Day, my 17-year-old daughter, Harmony, who graduates
high school this Saturday, handed me a painted, anatomically correct heart for a card. On the back, she’d written “Mama, I love you with all my heart.”

Last week, reading an April 11 New York Times Magazine Cover story, “Why Americas black mothers and babies are in a life and death crisis,” I followed a black woman, Simone Landrum’s, journey as she began to show signs of pre-eclampsia and eclampsia prior to the stillborn birth of her own daughter, also named Harmony.

It didn’t have to be that way.

Unlike me, Simone Landrum faced stresses common among black women in America leading up to her daughter’s birth. And then, she faced another situation familiar to people of color: Once she was in the health care system, every medical professional she came into contact with ignored or pooh-poohed her symptoms until it was too late.

My Harmony, like Simone’s, was a high-risk pregnancy. But unlike Simone’s experience, every medical professional I saw was attuned to me and my fetal and infant daughter’s needs.

My daughter lives, healthy and strong, while Simone Landrum and her young sons still mourn the loss of their Harmony.

Our Americas — Simone Landrum’s and mineĀ  — are separate and unequal. And it doesn’t have to be this way.

Thank you for being a part of this movement, and it matters. Here’s why: Attaining universal health care is one of the fastest, most direct routes to social, racial, and economic justice.

Before Medicare was passed in 1966, white hospitals wouldn’t allow black patients. It didn’t matter if someone was bleeding to death at the door. Then, when Medicare was signed into law, the fact that one single government payer paid for the care of all those over 65 meant hospitals could no longer afford to discriminate. If they wanted federal funding, they had to do well by all Americans.

It’s time for our health care system to do well by all Americans. A universal health care system, with one nonprofit payer, will insist on good outcomes for all patients.

There won’t be room for excuses based on who is black or who is white, or who is insured or uninsured. (We’ll all be covered together in one American national health plan.)

We still have so far to go.

Photo credit: The path forward: Inclusiveness, support, and the end of racial bias in our society and in health care.

Black women, no matter how rich or how
well educated, are three to four times as likely as white women to die of pregnancy, and black babies are dying too.

So let’s take this giant step forward as soon as we possibly can.

With liberty & justice for ALL. For Harmony.


Sara Wright, Director of Communications
Colorado Foundation for Universal Health Care

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