It’s a new day. The House has changed hands, likely due in part to fear of health care providers and many Americans that pre-existing conditions would no longer be covered. Health care is a pivotal issue that is at the forefront of the news.
We are registered nurses, nurse practitioners, teachers, researchers, and advocates, who care deeply about health care, health-related policies and programs. We care for individuals and families when they are in greatest need. Like others, we celebrate the overturn of the House but at the same time, we’re cautious.
We expect the newly elected representatives will advocate for the health of all people.
As registered nurses, we represent the largest health care workforce in the United States: Four million RNs who care for the most vulnerable individuals, families, and communities. Nurses believe that every single person should have access to the highest quality and safest healthcare, a basic human right. For decades, we have used experience and expertise to fight for that right, and for meaningful health care reform.
Since the 2016 election, we have watched the current administration push policy after policy designed to take away 50 years of public health improvements. There have been continuing attacks to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
They have rewritten national health goals, programs, and regulations, including discriminatory and restrictive regulations that reverse the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) mission to “protect the health of all Americans and to provide essential human services, especially for those least able to help themselves.”
These restrictive regulations are particularly threatening to sexual and reproductive health access and justice, issues that we know a lot about.
In the policy brief, Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights, Access & Justice: Where Nursing Stands, we summarize the commitment by the nursing community to advocate for evidence-based policy to:
- Support access to safe, quality sexual and reproductive care and health care providers, including access to a full range of FDA-approved prescription contraceptives;
- Oppose restrictive and discriminatory regulations in the DHHS Strategic Plan and programs;
- Oppose changes in health insurance plans that put patients and families at significant financial risk;
- Oppose political interference in sexual and reproductive health research and health professional education; and
- Support legal actions to protect patient-provider relationships, overturn abortion facility restrictions, and block the administration rules permitting employers to claim religious or moral exemptions to the ACA’s contraception mandate.
The current administration’s efforts are devastating to the health security of individuals and families. We are concerned that Congress and the current administration have, at best, little knowledge or, at worst, do not care about the impact that restrictive regulations have on the healthcare system and the health of the people of the United States.
Congress now has a political majority to protect the rights and access to care of the American people, especially women and vulnerable populations. It is time to rebuild our healthcare system from the devastation caused by recent restrictive policies. Congress must act now to reverse discriminatory regulations and laws. Nurses will be watching and will hold policymakers accountable.
Dr. Shannon Halloway is assistant professor at Rush University College of Nursing and a former Public Voices Fellow; Dr. Diana Taylor is professor emerita at the School of Nursing of University of California San Francisco and research scientist with Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health; Dr. Ellen F. Olshansky is women’s health nurse practitioner and professor emerita, School of Nursing, University of California Irvine; Dr. Laura Britton completed her PhD at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Dr. Mona Shattell is professor and chair at Rush University College of Nursing and Editor of the Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services. Authors are members of the American Nurses Association.