Over 100 Ann Arbor residents and Planned Parenthood supporters rallied at the Michigan Union Wednesday night to march in opposition of the Republican health care bill quickly and quietly making its way through the Senate, as well as the proposed federal defunding of Planned Parenthood.
The bill has received widespread criticism for its lack of transparency. Though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–Kentucky) said a draft of the bill will be released Thursday — one week before it is expected to come to a vote — so far it has only been seen by a handful of Republican senators. The version of the bill passed by the House of Representatives in May is expected to increase the number of uninsured Americans by 23 million, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Speaking to the crowd ahead of the march, Lauren Bacans, the Mid Michigan Field Organizer for Planned Parenthood, emphasized the disproportionate impact of the Republican's proposed health care plan on women.
"Everything is on the line for the 2.4 million patients that rely on Planned Parenthood services annually and whose healthcare is on the chopping block as part of Trumpcare," she said. "Trumpcare is the worst bill for women's health in a generation, and it must be stopped now."
Ann Arbor Mayor Chris Taylor noted while the Republican's health care bill often carries President Donald Trump's name, it was the responsibility of the party as a whole.
"When we woke up on November 9, we anticipated the dishonor that our nation would endure, having elected and entrusted our country to a people and a party as cruel and as reckless as the ones we have now in Washington," he said. "But I think few among us really imagined the breadth and heartlessness of the assault on science, on poverty, on climate, on immigrants, on refugees and the disfranchised, and now, of course, the final insult that brings us here today: the assault of this president and this party on women and health care."
Continuing, Taylor said it wasn't for lack of capacity the United States had so many uninsured people.
"In Ann Arbor, we know that our nation — the richest and most powerful in the world, in history — we ought to be able to figure out what every other developed nation in the world seems to have accomplished," he said. "We know that millions of uninsured is a national disgrace."
Eli Rubin, an organizer with Michigan United, questioned the motives of the bill. If it were a terrorist attack threatening hundreds of thousands of American lives, he said, the opposition would be much stronger.
"The Republicans, and some Democrats, owe a debt to their corporate donors — first and foremost the health insurance companies," he said. "These companies are among the very few industries that make money the less they serve their customers, not the more. What this is all about is a massive transfer of wealth from those who need it to live to those who don't need it at all."
Some of the speakers had more personal experiences with health care and Planned Parenthood. Liz Harrington, a patient-turned-advocate and volunteer for Planned Parenthood, emphasized the quality of care she received from the organization when she chose to have an abortion for an unplanned pregnancy at age 19.
"Making this decision was not something I was happy about,” she said. “I was not excited to have this done; I was upset, so I did start to cry. And the nurse, I remember her putting her hand on my shoulder, trying to comfort me, and when I was crying, she was wiping away my tears. And I've never had contact with doctors and nurses who were that kind and compassionate."
It wasn't just her pregnancy that she needed Planned Parenthood for though, she said. Clinicians discovered several cancerous cells in her during a routine pap smear test, which were quickly and successfully removed.
"I just think about what could've happened had I not had the education that Planned Parenthood gave me, and I think that that's something huge that they provide that not everywhere does," she said. "They teach people how to take care of themselves, what they need to do, what type of tests they should be having done."
State Rep. Donna Lasinski (D–Scio Township) said the way lawmakers defined "essential health care benefits" was sexist, as health concerns exclusive to women often fell outside this definition.
"I don't have a penis,” she joked. “I don't wanna pay for a prostate exam. I don't think they should be included. It's ridiculous. We're humans. And they're essential health care benefits that should be included. And it should not be gender-based."