It’s a frightening time to live in the United States, for so many reasons, but one is the very real concern that millions could lose access to affordable healthcare. This threat feels even more imminent when it comes to accessing reproductive healthcare.

It can sometimes feel overwhelming to do the work of a reproductive healthcare advocate, and there have been more than a few days in the past months when I have gone home feeling completely defeated, feeling helpless in the face of seemingly unending assaults on my right to bodily autonomy, and the rights of countless others in our state and in the nation. In those moments, it helps to remember that I’m not doing this work alone.

On Saturday, October 14, the NARAL CT staff attended the Health Care Action Summit, hosted by the Universal Health Care Foundation. Nearly 100 activists joined together to listen to speeches, attend a morning panel discussion, and participate in workshops on issues related to healthcare access.

The day started with a presentation by Jacob Hacker, Director of the Institution for Social & Policy Studies at Yale University, and a plenary with Mr. Hacker, Tekisha Everette of Health Equity Solutions, State Comptroller Kevin Lembo, and Tim Foley, of the SEIU CT State Council. The group discussed the current moment in healthcare advocacy, and where we go from here. The discussion was wonderful and here are just a few of the quotes that stuck with me:

“The most perverse part of our current system is the way that it divides us.” – Jacob Hacker
(reminding us that the system is built to tell us–falsely–that there are limited resources, that there are some who “deserve”
and some who don’t)

“Don’t let them off the hook on healthcare just because they don’t vote on healthcare.”
– Kevin Lembo

(urging everyone to ask candidates in municipal elections where they stand on these issues)

“Let’s make sure that as we build our next, great iteration, that we center equity in the conversation.” – Tekisha Everette
(reminding us that we have to center marginalized groups in any discussion of healthcare in order for it to be
a discussion worth having)

In the morning I attended a workshop on health equity with Tekisha Everette and Claudine Constant from Health Equity Solutions. I learned more about the concept of “language inequity,” how to make sure the right voices are at the table, and the importance of thinking non-traditionally about healthcare. It helped me to reflect on NARAL’s work and how we can do better in forming active partnerships and centering the voices of underserved communities in reproductive rights work.

The afternoon workshop was on storytelling as a tool for advocacy, with Micaela Blei and Onnesha Roychoudhuri, Co-Founders of Speech/Act. We had the chance to learn more about how to tell an effective story, how and when to tell your own story vs. someone else’s story, and we had the chance to practice our own stories with other activists in the room.

I worked through my own personal story of being unable to afford health insurance before the ACA because of a pre-existing condition, and how dehumanizing it was to have an insurance company boil my existence down to cold numbers, and inform me that my life was a liability they could not afford. That moment is always with me in the work that I do, and being able to use that story to advocate for the rights of others makes it feel more like an empowering moment, instead of a dehumanizing one.

It was one of those crucial days that reminded me that I don’t do this work alone, and even though there is so very much work to be done, I have colleagues and comrades who will stand with me as I do it.

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