July 26, 2017

Duckworth Calls for Stronger Protections for Americans with Disabilities Amid Healthcare Debate on Senate Floor


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] - U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) delivered a speech on the Senate floor today about the importance of protecting access to quality, affordable health care for people with disabilities as Senate Republicans attempt to strip health care from the disability community on the 27th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Duckworth shared the story of Jessica Baker, a young woman from Illinois whose life changed in a moment when a car crash left her in a wheelchair for the rest of her life. Jessica's access to the healthcare she depends on is now at risk because of Republican efforts to make it harder for Americans with disabilities to get the care they need.

Here are her remarks as prepared for delivery:

Thank you, Mr. President.

It is appalling that the Republican Party is working to strip health care from the disability community - on the anniversary of the day that we passed monumental legislation that improved the lives of Americans with disabilities.

Twenty-seven years ago, the Americans with Disabilities Act, one of the most important pieces of legislation of our time, was signed into law.

And it is a shame that as we celebrate this great achievement for equality, we are moving backwards rather than building on the progress our community worked so hard to make so that Americans with disabilities can live healthy, productive, independent lives.

We can't afford to move backwards. And I won't sit quietly by and let that happen.

And neither will my constituents.

I have heard from thousands of Illinoisans who are struggling to understand why lawmakers are considering ripping away the care that is keeping them alive and allowing them to be independent and productive members of our community.

I want to share just one of their stories with you about Jessica Baker, from Mascoutah, Illinois.

Nearly ten years ago, when she was a healthy and young 19 year old, her entire life changed.

Jessica was driving on the highway on a foggy morning.

Because of the lack of visibility on the road, a truck driver ahead of her rammed through two cars.

Jessica, just feet behind the truck, never saw a brake light go off.

She struck the semi-truck and became part of a 20-car pile-up.

This young, healthy woman's life completely changed in an instant.

Jessica is now 29 years old and a quadriplegic.

She depends on the Medicaid for her health care needs.

She is living an independent life and has done well under the Affordable Care Act.

Now, she fears that she will lose her care that the law has helped her receive.

Jessica was a healthy, vital person - whose life changed in an instant.

I understand how that feels. I went from being a soldier, one of the most physically fit people among my peers to becoming wheelchair bound.

So many of our brave men and woman take that risk every day.

We must be completely honest with ourselves - any American's life can change in the blink of an eye - the healthy can become sick, the able-bodied can become disabled in a single moment.

And any one of us can end up at the mercy of our health care system.

After her accident, Jessica had to fight for her life, and relearn how to live as a thriving young person.

Now the Senate Republicans and President Trump are threatening her life, by eliminating her access to care.

As proud as I am to be part of the Senate chamber, which passed the monumental ADA, I am also appalled by what the Republicans in this body are doing today.

Yesterday's vote to proceed on debate on a bill that would rob tens of millions of their health insurance is utterly shameful.

It would jeopardize a program that 1 in 10 Veterans, 2 out of 3 nursing home residents and children with autism, Down syndrome and special needs depend on.

That's simply unacceptable.

Senate Republicans have done everything they can to hide their legislation from the American people, crafting it in secret, behind closed doors.

However, one thing remains clear: the fight to protect health care is not over.

This is the time for the American people to keep speaking out - to make their voices heard.

And Senate Republicans must listen.

They must listen to their constituents and to the most vulnerable among us like the members of the disability community who have been here day after day literally fighting for their lives.

Day after day, I see people come into my office saying "save our lives."

That's why I'm working every single day to not only push back against these Republican efforts to strip care away from those who need it most, but to also bring folks together on commonsense improvements to our current healthcare system.

We cannot be a nation that says if you're sick or ill we're going to leave you behind... that's not who we are.

We are the greatest democracy on the face of this earth and we do not leave our most vulnerable behind.

Thank you, Mr. President.