Women’s March: Protesters fight for healthcare access, reproductive health

A protester carries a sign in support of keeping the Affordable Care Act during Saturday's Women's March on Washington in the District of Columbia. Photo credit: Leslie Small, FierceHealthPayer

Fears that the new White House administration will limit Americans’ access to healthcare inspired many physicians and healthcare advocates to join thousands of protesters and take to the streets Saturday as part of the Women’s March on Washington.

The protest was organized in response to the election of President Donald Trump. But concerns over the future of healthcare in the United States drove many to join the hundreds of thousands of women and men in rallies all over the country and the world.

"Right now, women's health is in greater danger than it has been at any time in the last 3 or 4 decades,” Kyle Ragins, M.D., a board member of Doctors for America and an emergency resident at the University of California, Los Angeles, told Medscape Medical News.

Healthcare providers not only fear the impact of a repeal of the Affordable Care Act leaving millions without healthcare coverage, but they also worry that lawmakers aim to limit access and coverage for contraception, abortion and other women’s health services, and change the vaccination criteria for U.S. children.

Many protesters carried signs and banners with messages that support reproductive rights and “Medicare for All,” noted MedPage Today.

"We want women to have access to anything they need to make the right choices for their bodies," Katie MacMillan, a fourth-year medical student at Quillen College of Medicine in Johnson City, Tennessee, told the publication.

The most immediate threat to healthcare access is the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Shortly after Donald Trump was sworn in as president, he issued an executive order to push for a quick repeal of President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare legislation.

Although many of the physicians interviewed by MedPage Today noted that the ACA was flawed, they also praised the fact that 20 million previously uninsured people received healthcare coverage under the health reform law. It was one reason why Ragins joined the protest. He told Medscape that he wanted Congress and the Trump administration to know that doctors see the benefits of the ACA every day.

But protesters vowed to fight for their right to healthcare. During a postmarch event, Planned Parenthood urged participants to call their senators urging them to protect their access to healthcare, The New York Times reported. Repeal of the ACA and defunding Planned Parenthood is going to “create havoc,” Cecile Richards told David Axelrod on "The Axe Files," a podcast from the University of Chicago Institute of Politics and CNN.