On Monday, September 12 a group of a hundred or more clergy and lay leaders marched from the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church to the State Capitol steps in Montgomery, Alabama.
The group carried a letter to Governor Bentley entitled “Higher Ground Moral Declaration” signed by more than 10,000 Alabama citizens and unfurled a quilt with a thousand pieces representing people in Alabama who had died because they did not have health insurance. Governor Bentley has not extended Medicaid to reach people up to 138% of the poverty level. There are 250,000 people in this gap between Medicaid coverage for the very poor and working poor people who do not make enough to qualify for insurance subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. The actions in Montgomery were coordinated with demonstrations in more than twenty states by Rev. William Barber, North Carolina NAACP leader and head of the “Moral Monday Movement” to raise moral concerns about the future direction of America.
In the Higher Ground Moral Declaration it states, “Following moral traditions rooted in our faith and the Constitution, we are called to stand up for justice and tell the truth. We challenge the position that the preeminent moral issues today are about prayer in public schools, abortion, and homosexuality. Instead, we declare the deepest public concerns of our faith traditions are how our society treats the poor, those on the margins, the least of these, women, children, workers, immigrants and the sick; equality and representation under the law; and the desire for peace, love and harmony within and among nations.”
“This Higher Ground Moral Declaration provides a moral agenda for our nation on issues including: democracy and voting rights; poverty and economic justice; workers’ rights; education; healthcare; environmental justice; immigrant rights and challenging xenophobia; criminal justice; LGBTQ rights; and war-mongering and the military. For each issue area, an individual moral and constitutional foundation is established. The positions are neither left nor right, nor conservative or liberal. Rather, they are morally defensible, constitutionally consistent, and economically sound. Most importantly, they represent, as Dr. King urged, a revolution in values.”
At the Capitol steps, the persons who unveiled the Healthcare Justice Quilt made this statement, “The quilt has 1000 squares. We chose this figure to represent the minimum 1000 lives prematurely lost every year in Alabama, due to lack of health insurance. The quilt is also intended to remember additional lives lost due to inability to afford co-pays and deductibles, hospital closures, and all financial barriers to healthcare.
“We would like to recognize quilters around the state who have contributed to this project, including Mopsy Forsee, Linda Harman, Katherine Weathers, Pippa Abston, and the members of Project Linus in Huntsville.
“Our plan for the quilt is to write names of those who have died prematurely because of financial barriers to healthcare in our state. This is not restricted by year. We have pens here for any of you who wish to contribute names today. We will use this quilt as both a memorial for those named and unnamed, and as a call to action.
“We plan to have it at events in the state and to take it to government officials, so they have a visual reminder of the consequences of their policy decisions. Please contact us if you want to set up a meeting with your legislator or other government official or if you have an event in mind.
We will initially focus our efforts on the Medicaid Expansion. Even the expansion, however, will not bring health insurance to everyone; and full health insurance coverage that includes co-pays and deductibles will not make quality healthcare affordable to everyone. So this quilt will be used as long as it is needed—as long as there is anyone whose healthcare is limited due to money. We hope that one day, it will live in a museum, as a remembrance of what we did before we learned better.
“Our quilt is made of many different fabrics and by many hands, and it was stitched with love. Notice how the different fabrics, brought together, create a new and beautiful whole! We in Alabama are also of many colors, textures and patterns, all connected with the common thread of our humanity. When we come together, we are as beautiful as this quilt. We commit ourselves today to the love and care of all human beings!”