Nancy McBride doesn’t usually organize marches.
By day, she’s an OB/GYN at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC. In fact, when she spoke to The Incline this week, she had just finished delivering a baby.
But after the election of Donald Trump, McBride said she got together with some similarly shaken colleagues, friends and neighbors, who weren’t really politically active before the election. Feeling compelled to act, they formed the civically focused Bartlett Street Assembly, named for the Squirrel Hill street on which they live. This weekend, they’ll host a March for Health to reject any repeal of the Affordable Care Act that would lead to fewer people being covered.
“We were concerned, honestly, about the future of our democracy,” McBride said of forming the group. “We wanted to do something like a lot of liberals out here.”
The Bartlett Street Assembly has held a couple of meetings to discuss the members’ shared values, and they aim to do one tangible thing each month, which recently took the form of raising money for the ACLU. The group is also in the process of forming a political action committee, Pittsburghers for America, that will target local and state races. McBride said the PAC, which is chaired by her husband, Jake, aims to support candidates by 2018.
As a physician, McBride is spearheading Pittsburgh’s March for Health, one of at least 16 taking place nationwide this Saturday as part of a larger grassroots movement. Organizers of the national march “insist that if the Affordable Care Act is to be repaired or replaced, it is done only for improvement of care and to cover more people at affordable rates,” according to their Bill of Rights.
The nationwide March for Health is Saturday, and Pittsburgh's begins at Flagstaff Hill before moving to the Cathedral of Learning. Locally, the march is being organized by Pittsburghers for America. Founding member Dr. Nancy McBride will speak, as will other physicians. Members of the community are also encouraged to share stories about the Affordable Care Act.
Where: Flagstaff Hill in Schenley Park
When: April 1, 2017 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
How much: Free
Pittsburgh’s march begins at Flagstaff Hill in Schenley Park and moves to the Cathedral of Learning lawn. Scheduled speakers include McBride and Dr. Julie Donohue, an associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health. McBride said people with ACA stories are invited to share them, as well.
Every day, McBride said she sees the positive impact of Obamacare. Each of her patients who’ve just delivered can take a breast pump home for free under the law, meaning the mother is able to breastfeed even when she returns to work. The ACA also mandates that private insurance companies cover contraception, meaning women are able to obtain a highly effective and low-maintenance form of birth control called an IUD with no upfront cost.
But under Trump and House Leader Paul Ryan’s replacement healthcare bill, the provision providing for breast pumps was stripped during negotiations. The bill would have also stopped Medicaid reimbursements to Planned Parenthood, cutting off a major way women obtain low-cost birth control.
“A lot of people asked, ‘Should I get an IUD now?’ ” McBride said of the uncertainty. “People were asking for months and months and months of birth control pills, so they could stock up.”
McBride is far from the only Pittsburgh physician who opposes a complete repeal of the ACA. Led by medical students at Pitt, dozens of healthcare providers signed on to a letter to Pennsylvania lawmakers that lays out the potential harms that could befall not only patients but also the region if Congress repeals the ACA.
While the Bartlett Street Assembly plans to focus on a number of issues, McBride said the fight for good healthcare coverage isn’t going away, despite the Trump administration’s apparent eagerness to move on.
“No one in healthcare can say that. Nobody can just say, ‘I’m done discussing it,’ ” McBride said. “It’s something we deal with every day.”