Amanda Rae- Staff Communications Advocate

George Reed- Staff Communications Director and Activist

As we move forward into the New Year with a vastly changed local, state, and national political landscape, it is important to review where we are and to understand what matters require the attention of the people.  We are starting this series of blogs and features to do just that and we think everyone will be able to agree there is a lot to talk about in week 1 of the new presidency.  We will hit a changing array of topics each week, so if your favorite hot spot is not yet listed, well, then just let us know!

President Trump, Congressman Rokita, and the Affordable Care Act (ACA)

As we review his first week in the oval office, we first notice that President Trump has recently begun cutting funding to the Affordable Care Act by way of executive orders. Congressman Rokita of the Indiana 4th District has thrown his full support behind any and all orders or bills that oppose the enforcement or stability of the Affordable Care Act. In these early stages, it is reckless at the least to consider any uprooting of the ACA in any way. No replacement plan has been put forth. Though Rokita and the GOP continue to say that everyone will be covered, yet nothing has been put forth in the way of actually doing so. “As Vice-Chair of the House Budget Committee, the repeal of ObamaCare is one of my greatest priorities. Under ObamaCare premiums have gone up while the choices that Americans have has gone down,” said Congressman Rokita in a Facebook post from this January.

Included in a separate post was a link to a page discussing a plan called the “Better Way,” which would dash the pieces of the ACA considered unreasonable, while promising that everyone need not worry about being turned away due to pre-existing conditions. However, no bill, no viable replacement, has been offered up—only glittering generalities. If any alternative solutions were offered up today it could take up to 4 years for it to become passable and enforceable. If the ACA has its wings clipped now, it may irresponsibly allow insurance providers to immediately begin turning people away for pre-existing conditions.  Some carriers are already denying pre-existing conditions on the grounds that the law is headed in their favor anyway, leaving patients to go without care or file expensive law suits. This is disastrous for a multitude of communities and individuals.

For instance, transgenderism is largely regarded as a pre-existing condition. Since the ACA was passed, many trans people have now had a chance to begin their lives and transition. The ACA also stipulates that Medicaid providers must cover transition-related medicine for trans people. Without the ACA, many trans people may lose their transition medicine, and be forced to uproot their lives. This is also terrible for anyone with cancer, diabetes, and other chronic or life-threatening illnesses as they may now be turned away from coverage. The GOP claims that one of their top priorities is protecting and enriching the lives of our veterans, yet disabled veterans may likely be turned away due to pre-existing conditions like physical disabilities, PTSD, chronic pain, etc.

The simple fact of the matter is that it is likely that Rokita and other GOP bigwigs simply do not care about the needs of those with pre-existing conditions. They are simply too expensive. Also stipulated in the ACA is that those under 26 years of age are allowed to stay on their parents’ health insurance. This gives a great head-start to those of us that are young and not financially able to afford our own healthcare needs. If the ACA is clipped now, millions of the country’s young may lose health coverage. Our young minds, our collective future, may have their health subjected to the whims of fate.

College students have enough debt as it is, and heaping the debt of their own health expenses on them is irresponsible for the future of our nation. The goal of any congressman put forward to represent us should be to responsibly support the ACA indefinitely or until a better act is put forth. The ACA may be repealed, but only if other similar, and perhaps more-affordable, legislation can replace it simultaneously. Anything else would be irresponsible and a danger to the well-being of millions.

President Trump, Congressman Rokita, and the methodical dis-inclusion of millions of Americans.

One of the executive orders that Obama passed was the Executive Order 13672, which prohibited discrimination in the federal workforce and in hiring by federal contractors on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Across the board, GOP government officials have been trying and trying to get Trump to repeal Obama’s federal LGBT protections. When trying to find Rokita’s stance on this issue, almost no information is available. Trying to search for Rokita’s views on LGBT rights is like looking for a needle in a pool of magma. He simply does not voice his views on LGBT people or our rights. Trying to search for “LGBT” on his Facebook page will turn up no results. How disappointing to see from a congressman that is supposed to represent all the people of his district. However, research was able to turn up information on Rokita’s voting in the way of LGBT rights. In 2016, New York Representative Sean Patrick Maloney introduced an amendment, referred to as the “Maloney amendment,” which would amend H.R.4974, a military construction and veterans affairs spending bill, to not deny spending based on LGBT status of recipients or clients of recipients. “The Johnson Executive Order does not intrude on any religious liberties of which I am aware,” Rokita said in a statement. “The Maloney amendment does.” Rokita voted against the Maloney amendment, demonstrating for everyone that he regards religious freedom as the means to lawfully deny services to LGBT Americans, some of which he may even represent. Rokita also co-sponsored the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act, which prevents the government from taking any action on anyone acting or speaking according to their view that marriage is between one man and one woman. Effectively, it is the antithesis of a hate crime act, meaning that it almost vaguely encourages LGBT hatred in public. The act has only been introduced, and not yet voted upon.  Conscientious voters will wish to weigh in with their elected officials before it reaches a floor vote. Any congressman put forward to represent us must be willing to represent all of us, and vote in favor of the rights and protections of everyone.

A Woman’s Right to Choose.

In recent days, the president has taken moves to establish a pro-life precedent abroad, and has stated himself that he is pro-life. The only ethical stance is pro-choice, where even if one personally disagrees with the act of abortion and would never get one themselves, the individual maintains a belief that a woman’s body is hers to do with.  It is a stance where no woman should be made to be a host to a child inside of her that she does not want there. On January 25th, Congressman Rokita posted a Facebook post in support of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which will make it so that taxpayer funding will only be allocated to an abortion if carrying the fetus would be life-threatening, or if the fetus is a result of rape or incest. Rokita is vehemently pro-life. The simple fact of the matter is that men are allowed to have as many sexual relations as they like, with little to no personal bodily repercussions. A woman cannot, without fear of the penalty of being made to host an organism inside her for a grueling nine months. People make love, contraceptives routinely fail. Abortion is here to mitigate such a biological and medical inequality. The compelling visual image of 7 men in the White House making decisions governing a woman’s bodily rights is so far beyond appalling that the light from appalling would not strike it for one million years.

For someone without child-bearing organs to make the assertion that women who do not want their pregnancies are simply irresponsible is irresponsible in itself. Abortions are expensive for the individual to support all on their own, and an unwanted pregnancy is something most men will never be personally confronted with. It is something no congressman will be confronted with. I don’t feel that congressman Rokita understands what women go through, or how to represent them, and instead thinks of his own personal feelings about the importance of a fetus. A congressman put forth to represent us must be pro-choice. His own personal feelings on a woman’s right to choose for her body should not interfere with his capacity represent the people who installed him in his position, all of the people, women included.

Presidential Censorship

The president has recently called CNN and other news organizations who accurately criticize him “fake news,” and has called upon the EPA and National Parks to cease any social media activity. He demands that scientists pass studies past the White House staff before publishing—said staff having not a single scientifically qualified individual on the payroll. What we are witnessing is a calculated and intentional censorship, a blinding of the American people. The president has next set his sights on internet blockages and online censorship, which is a way to blind the American people to outside sources reporting the truth. The American people must be smart enough to realize that we are being blindfolded and that the president would like to feed us “White House news,” only news that he and his colleagues deem appropriate, his “alternative facts,” as famously stated by Kelly Anne Conway. Trump’s aim is to establish the White House as a proverbial “Ministry of Truth.” It is the duty of any elected official to actively oppose the president’s unlawful censorship aims. The American people must know the truth. If unbiased news sources, American or otherwise, are silenced at the hands of the president, we will be left with only the White House’s interpretation of facts. Accurate journalism is one of the great checks and balances that keep officials and the government at-large, responsible.

What are we to do?

We live in a terrifying time and are left to explain to our children what basic freedoms, inalienable rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of well-being are being restricted or taken away altogether.  We must answer hard questions about the systemic lack of inclusion being demonstrated by our elected officials.  For those of us not in any minority group being disenfranchised we must point out that tomorrow it could be them. We are not without resource and there are actions we can—and must—take to secure an America where every man, woman, and child can walk freely, live safe and healthy lives, and have access to a compassionate government and a media community free to operate with integrity while delivering news that is accurate and complete.  America deserves to be led by men and women who have read, understand, and comply with the boundaries set out in our Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Amendments.  We need to be watchful and call out via blog, podcast, news story, letters, and calls whenever our leaders go astray. The law and spirit of America apply to all of us now and for always.  Let us all do our part to see that this never changes.

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