Why we took action: The moral imperative for universal healthcare

We realized that we were the victims of a broken promise … our hopes had been blasted… We had no alternative except to prepare for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community.”  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail, 1963

Last Thursday, over forty people participated in a sit-in at the Vermont statehouse, with 29 arrested, calling on legislators to move forward with a universal, publicly-financed healthcare system. They ranged in age from 18-69, and from eight Vermont counties. Jess Fuller from Burlington was one of them.

Jess Fuller speaking to the rest of the sit-in participants at the statehouse“I lost my step-dad to cancer because he couldn’t afford treatment because he was self-employed.  I have also been diagnosed with a chronic illness and my life now is governed by whether or not I can afford to get better.

For all these reasons, I participated in a sit in at the Vermont Statehouse in January 8th. We have already gone through the proper channels to change this system, and we have it in Vermont law that healthcare is a public good. For my step-dad, for myself, for my community, the time is NOW to act and end the healthcare crisis.” -Jess Fuller, featured in photo

The rally and sit-in has drawn both praise and criticism, as well as a flurry of media coverage ranging from local press to national outlets like Democracy Now! and Common Dreams. Over 60 organizations have signed onto a statement calling on the Governor and legislature to move forward with healthcare, and Reverend William J. Barber II, known for his role in the Moral Mondays movement, has launched a sign-on letter of support for our efforts in Vermont.

Photo of sit-inAs Dr. King said, “Nonviolent direct action...seeks to so dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.” Because of Thursday’s sit-in, an issue which was at risk of being eclipsed and left by the wayside has once again been thrust into the limelight of Vermont politics. Legislators are discussing hearings on the Governor’s financing proposals, but it’s going to take all of our efforts for them to follow through and move forward.

Tomorrow, January 15th, faith leaders will be at the Statehouse before the Governor’s budget address, speaking out on the moral imperative to move forward with universal healthcare. Supporters of the Healthcare is a Human Right campaign will be there to join them and support their call to action.

Please support their efforts by calling the Sergeant-at-Arms tomorrow and leaving a message for Speaker of the House Shap Smith to hold public hearings on the Governor’s financing proposal by January 29th: 802-828-2228

Photo credit: Jonathan Leavitt, Anja Rudiger