The Right to Choose

by: Joe Stango, Founder, President Dora’s Hope

There is a great debate raging throughout our country today. It is the resurgence of the age old issue regarding a women’s right to choose. Oddly, it is the notion of freedom – religious freedom – that has seen this issue re-emerge and in a big way. We are a nation, beginning at our very birth and throughout our history that continually asks the question “who are you to tell me what to do?” Or, to put it another way such as the young artist Sara Bareilles sings in her recent hit, “who made you king of anything?”

Whether the argument is about the government, a political party or a religious institution and the roles they each play in our lives, we, as Americans, don’t like anyone telling us what to do. We are a people who want to be free to make our decisions based upon our own beliefs and our own conscience.

Regardless of whether you or I agree with this premise is not the issue. The simple truth is it exists – period, end of sentence. Oddly, it exists within both major political parties but, perhaps, in different ways. One wants to do away with “big” government while the other wants to do away with “big” business. Republicans want to “get government off the back” of its people so that they can be free to go out into the world and do what they do best via a smaller, less intrusive government. Democrats, on the other hand, want to free us from the “injustice” that major institutions, secular or religious, seemingly “force” upon us. Wall Street or Wal-Mart, they rally against “big” corporations and the monopolizing affects they have on society. What I fail to understand however, is why neither the republican nor democratic argument seems to spread beyond the healthy and the young to the disabled and the aged.

Medicaid is a government sponsored “healthcare” program. For most seniors and disabled citizens, it is a government sponsored “long term care” program. I might add that it is the primary source for long term care services for all Americans – yet no Republican discusses getting the government off the “backs” of those affected by it. No Democrat talks about a woman’s “right to choose,” or for that matter, anyone else’s right to choose where the care is delivered. Neither party discusses the government sanctioned “monopoly” that exists because of Medicaid’s mandate that Medicaid health care services be delivered in an institutional setting rather than allowing consumers to choose for themselves where they will receive their care, in an institution or at home surrounded by their loved ones.

More disturbing to me is either side’s lack of outrage that government is intruding in the lives of its people resulting in parents losing their children, wives being separated from their husbands, and good Americans being taken from the community’s and church’s that they love.

Where is the justice department’s investigation of discrimination, disable-ism, disabled profiling and bias? Where are the politicians pounding the podium declaring to Americans that the questionable practices of this government, a government “of the people, by the people and for the people,” are wrong and that they must be changed? Where are the congressional committee hearings investigating why the government has suspended liberty and incarcerated fellow Americans against their will? Where is the senate finance hearing investigating why taxpayers are footing the higher costs for these practices when, with full knowledge, the committee knows community based care is less expensive? Where is the anger over the monopolistic tactics of the institutional care industry and their lobbyists? Where are the investigative reporters seeking answers as to why government has run amok or stories on corporate greed of institutional care providers?

Finally, and I speak with humnility and in the most solemn of tones, I ask where are our religious leaders to speak on the immorality of these government tactics? Where is our Reverend King to speak about the hope being denied our fellow Americans and their dream of freedom? Where is our Reverend Bonhoeffer – a Lutheran minister who, under the threat of the Nazi party in the 1930s simply distinguished for us “cheap grace from costly grace” teaching us that grace comes from more than a declaration of faith it comes from an adherence to the word particularly when in the presence of injustice?

Where are you America?

In this country we believe that freedom should be granted to all. However, there seems to be an unspoken caveat that says ‘freedom for all….unless you are disabled because of age or disease.’ Then, and only then, you must forfeit your freedom and let the government take over your life, taking you from your family, your community and your sense of purpose, robbing you of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It seems we have yet to acknowledge that we are all, including the aged and disabled, creatures of God who embrace our freedom with the hope of making a difference in the lives of others and discovering, despite our age or disability, what God’s plan is for us.

The Reverend Dr Martin Luther King Jr. taught us that; black or white, yellow or red Jew or Gentile, Catholic or Protestant, Republican or Democrat, Asian, Italian, Cuban, Irish or any other ethnicity represented in this country, we all dream the same dream – the dream of Freedom. As Americans we have yet to realize that just because we grow old or become disabled does not mean we cherish our freedom any less – in fact, I will argue, we cherish it even more. As Reverend King once noted, “justice delayed is justice denied.” Under Medicaid we have denied freedom long enough. We have denied justice long enough. We have denied the “right to choose” to our seniors and our disabled brothers and sisters long enough.

It’s time to reunite individuals with their families, churches, communities and all whom they love; it’s time to bring hope where there is despair; it’s time to bring light where there is darkness; it is time to bring joy where there is sadness; it’s time to bring love where there is hatred and anger for a government that has forgotten its own people.

It’s time for Choice Centered Medicaid.

I pray that the good Lord will continue to bless and keep us all and that we will always be surrounded by those we love.

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