These are two photos I didn’t know I had. 

My first job after college was organizing for a labor union — SEIU, District 1199 WV/KY/OH. I was still a kid and not great at the gig, but it gave me the chance to organize on behalf of the union during the 2004 presidential election. As a political organizer, I was sent out to San Francisco for their convention. That June, union members from around the world — 40,000 of us — marched across the Golden Gate Bridge as a protest to call for health care for all.

This wasn’t in support of Obamacare. The future president from Chicago was still an Illinois state senator at the time. But we knew that there was a pressing need for affordable, accessible health care for every person in this country.

Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge is no small endeavor, by the way. It’s four miles over and back, including a pretty steep incline from the park below the foot of the bridge.

Now sixteen years later, we’re still working towards this goal. In the face of record unemployment, anyone can see that connecting health care coverage to the interests of one’s employer is a deeply flawed system.

The basics of President Obama’s push are still true: No one should be denied coverage, or over charged, because of a pre-existing condition. No one should be forced into bankruptcy because of health care bills.

The Affordable Care Act was good progress, but it didn’t go far enough. Especially in light of a universal pandemic, we need universal health care coverage. No one should lose their  health care coverage because their small business was forced to close or they were laid-off from their job. Employer-provided health care coverage isn’t good enough for American families.

As a former organizer for Planned Parenthood and now for NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, I can clearly see the value in ensuring every person who needs it can get prescription birth control, emergency contraception, and abortion care. This must be a part of public funding for health care coverage. The federal Hyde Amendment, and matching state legislation, must be repealed. These bans on the use of public dollars to pay for abortion care are a punishment for low-income people, and disproportionately affect people of color. Abortion is time-sensitive and essential health care, and it is long past due that state governments treat it as such.

This pandemic has given us all a new perspective, a time to dig through old photo albums, but also a chance to look forward.

We have to build new systems for the brave new world.

— Gabriel Mann

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