The Right To Health And A Healthy Planet: Ecological Devastation And Health Care

Kentucky State Police officers prevent faith leaders and the poor from peacefully protesting at the Capitol building. Photo by Steve Pavey.

Dear America,

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — Declaration of Independence

“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ 44 “Then they also will answer [b]Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ — Matthew 25: 41–45

Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. These are the unalienable rights guaranteed to us by our Creator and by the founders of this country, yet armed Kentucky State Police denied members of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival these basic rights on Monday when they barred entry into the State Capitol. Our country was founded through active protesting. All of the greatest civil rights achievements have been accomplished when people unite and raise their voices in protest against injustices. The authorities in Kentucky denied us that right to peacefully assemble and protest and we refuse to let this stand.

Kentucky is the first state to implement work requirements for Medicaid, limiting access to health care coverage for thousands of residents who are unable to meet those requirements. When opponents threatened to challenge the new requirements in court, Kentucky’s governor, Matt Bevin, filed an executive order that would eliminate the state’s Medicaid expansion if the changes were blocked. This would mean nearly 500,000 people would lose access to health care. These policies and threats are immoral and put the lives of America’s most vulnerable at risk. We recognize that these extremist leaders wanted to silence our voices because they know that we are speaking the truth about the oppression experienced by this nation’s poor. We will not allow anyone to silence our truth and we will continue to push forward and fight for change.

Monday was our fourth week of nonviolent moral fusion direct action in Washington D.C. and over 30 states across the nation. This week, our theme was The Right to Health and a Healthy Planet: Ecological Devastation and Health Care. Access to affordable health care should be a guaranteed right, but 32 million people in the U.S. lack health care coverage. When states like Arkansas, Kentucky, Arizona, Maine, Wisconsin and Indiana make moves to cut Medicaid expansion or impose new requirements, they put people’s lives at risk. We have politicians who are more willing to dump money into funding destructive military weapons and unnecessary wars than they are to fund health care coverage for the poorest amongst us.

America’s current water crisis is the cause of systemic changes, NOT climate change. Lack of oversight by officials has allowed companies to bypass safety regulations, leading to astonishingly high lead concentrations in residential drinking water. Even when towns like Flint, Michigan fall into the national spotlight for contaminated water, officials still take years to act. America is supposed to be the land of opportunity, yet 13.8 million U.S. households cannot afford water. Water is key to life. How can we promise the unalienable right of life to Americans if we cannot even provide them with access to clean, affordable water?

America’s poorest and most vulnerable can no longer afford to be ignored. We need a single-payer universal health care system so that no one has to worry about access to care. We also need the expansion of Medicaid in every state and the protection of Medicare. We demand a true investment in infrastructure that ensures every person has drinkable water. We demand equal treatment and accessible housing, health care, public transportation, adequate income and services for people with disabilities. Every person in this country has the right to dignified jobs and living wages, housing, education, health care, and welfare. We demand an end to the numerous injustices that these immoral politicians have been spreading across our nation for far too long.

Supporters from across the country have continued to rise up against these injustices and speak out. Faith leaders and impacted persons marched on their state legislatures in New York, Maryland, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Rhode Island, Missouri, and other states to protest. When Kentucky State Police officers refused to allow marchers entry into the State Capitol, they simply proved that our politicians do not care about the unalienable rights our founding fathers bestowed upon this nation. They only care about lining their pockets and protecting the interests of the wealthy. This injustice must stop.

We only have a few weeks left in our campaign and we need you to help our voices be heard. Join us this upcoming Monday, and the following Mondays until June 23 in your state and Washington, D.C. Then join us at the National Mall in D.C. on Saturday, June 23 for the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival’s Call to Action Rally.

Click here to join now and commit to participating on the ground or share your support online using the #PoorPeoplesCampaign hashtag.

We demand justice now.