It’s an unforgettable image.
Just a few hours after Senate Republicans released their health care bill, a woman in a wheelchair chanting “No cuts to Medicaid” is rolled down Capitol office building hallway by police.
About 10 seconds into the shot, the officers lift her out of her chair and carry her off-screen and outside as her chants grow louder and louder.
Her name is Stephanie Woodward. She’s a disability rights lawyer and activist.
She had traveled to D.C. with a group of around 60 protestors to call on the Senate majority leader to preserve the program.
“People with disabilities depend on Medicaid for our lives and for our liberty,” she says in an interview.
The group piled into McConnell’s office with others lying down on the floor just outside. Members were taken into custody about 20 or 30 minutes later.
The Senate bill contains major cuts to Medicaid, a program that funds a large portion of medical care for Americans with disabilities.
The current proposal caps the amount of money the federal government provides the states to cover the program, which funds home care for disabled adults in addition to general medical care. With drastic funding reductions, Woodward fears, many disabled adults would be forced into nursing homes, losing their independence in the process.
“My parents were working-class people,” says Woodward, who was born with spina bifida. “They couldn’t afford to keep me alive if it wasn’t for Medicaid. Medicaid paid for all my surgeries growing up, paid for my wheelchairs. I wouldn’t be who I am today … without Medicaid getting me here.”
Woodward would like to see senators revise the bill — and bring people with disabilities into the process.
High on her list is making sure the law does not reduce the ability of people who need intensive, frequent medical care to do more than just survive.
“We have the right to not only live, but live just as every other American in the community,” she says.
In the meantime, she has no regrets about the protest.
“I’m certainly a bit sore, but it’s worth it,” she insists. “It’s what we need to do to fight for our lives.”
For her, it’s about the values in the Declaration of Independence: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
“We don’t see that as just restricted to people without disabilities,” she says. “I think that’s for all Americans.”