On Sunday, September 29, 2013, I was awarded the Justice Award for Practical Support by ACCESS Women’s Health Justice in Oakland, California, for my service providing housing, rides, and meals to clients and their families traveling 4-5 hours to the San Francisco Bay Area for an abortion appointment. I am deeply honored to have received this award and, more importantly, had the opportunity to serve the ACCESS community and make a difference in someone’s life. Below is video of the award ceremony.
“Even when covered by a major health insurance company in the San Francisco Bay Area—the epicenter of cutting-edge trans* healthcare—it was difficult for Kelly Lewis to find competent care. “The doctor told me he didn’t feel comfortable prescribing shots, so he wanted to start me on the patches,” Lewis was told by a doctor when seeking testosterone hormones. “I felt that this physician was more of a gatekeeper than a provider,” he continued. After requesting to change doctors, Lewis was asked by the office to stay because the doctor wanted to learn about transgender healthcare—on his body. While the provider’s intent to learn more about trans* health care appeared noble, no one should have to be treated as an experiment especially given the sordid history of experimentation on Black bodies in this country. The lack of education among providers and the ongoing stigma facing Black trans* people factor prominently in health disparities in the Black trans* community—the ACA does not specifically address healthcare discrimination based on gender identity or expression,** which is a prevalent experience.
Before care is possible, simply affording insurance remains an issue. Thirty-four percent of Black trans* people earn less than $10,000 per year making co-payments, insurance premiums, and other healthcare costs not covered by the ACA out of reach. Nineteen percent of the Black and trans* communities under 65 are uninsured while a 2010 trans* discrimination survey found that 31% of Black trans* people were uninsured. While lack of health insurance is not the only factor in the health disparities these communities face, it is a major one.”
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In partnership with the ACLU of California, the California Family Health Council, and the National Center for Youth Law, we created a CREDO Mobilize petition asking California Governor Brown to sign the Confidentiality of Medical Information Bill (SB 138) which gives patients to have additional privacy protections when using insurance. After receiving the over 1,000 signatures on Monday, September 30, 2013, Governor Brown signed SB 138 on Tuesday, October 1, 2013.
“If SB 138 is signed into law, it will allow Californians to access health care like birth control and abortion, mental health services, and substance abuse treatment without parents or partners finding out from insurance companies. It will also allow anybody who feels that disclosure of their health information could put them in danger to opt in to additional privacy protections. And because they will be able to use their own insurance without fear, fewer patients will need to rely on state-funded healthcare programs or their own wallet to pay for care, saving Californians and the state money. These protections introduced by SB 138 will especially help young people and those experiencing domestic violence.”
“In the United States, 6 in 10 people having an abortion are already parenting a child, while 3 in 10 have two or more children. In the evening, I often hear clients making phone calls, putting their children to bed, telling them how much they love them. “Don’t worry,” they say, “I’ll be home to put you to bed tomorrow.” Wouldn’t it be nice if they could get the care that they need and be home in time to kiss their children goodnight? Instead of having to leave their families and travel five hours for a simple medical procedure, imagine if care were provided in their own hometown.”