As physicians, we have a unique perspective on racial justice. As an OB/GYN, I am trusted by women, the LGBTQ community, and people of all ethnic backgrounds to take care of them when they are at their most vulnerable. America is at a health care crossroads, and the decisions we make today will affect generations to come.
The very principle of equality is at the heart of these issues. We need to make it clear who we consider equal under the law. Until recently, I didn’t think all men and women being treated as equals was a radical ideal. I thought it was an American one.
So many legislators have hidden behind a multitude of excuses in order to avoid change in health care disparities and equity concerns. Many individuals are in denial that this exists at the current time. Unfortunately, if an injustice doesn’t happen to an individual, their family, or friends, many don’t see it as a problem.
In this country, as divided as we are, I think it is important to bring clarity to our concerns. When physicians address racial justice, gender equity, or equality for the LGBTQ community, we are never asking for special rights. No one wants to be treated with an attitude of preference over another group. The ask is to be seen as equal under the law. This concept may be uncomfortable for those who have had an edge in the workplace by virtue of existing.
I have two children, Joseph and Addison, who are 7 and 5 years old. I used to tell people I do my job and have become politically active because my daughter is watching. However, it may be more important that I am raising a man who is watching. He will learn to treat everyone as a peer and colleague. I will make sure he treats every human being with respect and dignity.
My ask to the legislature is that we get a realistic view of what is going on in our communities. People are afraid to come forward with their concerns out of fear of retaliation. Many communities are concerned they might not get the health care they deserve because of who they are or who they love.
We should have zero tolerance for rhetoric that enables hate and discrimination. Our politicians, like physicians, need to be held to a different standard. We need to set the tone for our community and traffic in love, acceptance, and authenticity.
We need a more streamlined process to look at gender, LGBTQ, and racial disparities in the health care system. We need people to be held accountable when they aren’t following the standard of practice that all people should receive.
In America, Black mothers die at a rate three times that of white mothers during childbirth. We need to dissect this issue. We need elected leaders who walk with our communities and us to take on these tasks. Those elected need to listen to the science, research, and evidence to act on the needs of all our patients.
I tell my kids every day that if you fight for what’s right; and come from a place of honesty, love, and authenticity, you can’t make a wrong move. I would ask this body to work with us to create a healthier and safer environment for our patients and for our future generations.
Help us make equality an American ideal once again.
Kellie Lease Stecher is an obstetrician-gynecologist, M Health Fairview Center for Women, Edina and Eden Prairie, MN. She can be reached on LinkedIn, Facebook, and on Medium @kellie.stecher.
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