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Many readers learned of my arrest for nonviolent civil disobedience last month when they read about it in an article titled, "Doctor jailed after health care protest."
I have seen approximately 500 patients since that time and have spoken to friends and neighbors, many of whom stop me at the post office, the gas station, the gym, the grocery store. Each has had kind words of support for standing up for what I believe in and I want to thank each of you. Several have told me their personal health insurance horror stories and many have taken the time to learn about the single-payer option for financing health-care reform. And I have personally delivered more than 75 signatures to Sens. Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-5th, Md.), petitioning their support for HR 676, The United States National Health Insurance Act.
On June 3, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) met with national leaders of the single-payer movement and admitted that it was a mistake not to include single-payer advocates in his health reform roundtables. He also vowed to use the power of his office to make sure the charges were dropped against me and the other 12 people arrested.
However, at our status hearing on Monday, the U.S. attorney informed us that his office had received no such message from Sen. Baucus and offered us a plea bargain: 40 hours of community service in Washington, D.C., for those living in the D.C. area, and 100 hours for those opting to do their service outside of Washington.
So, come on down to the National Mall and visit while I spend 40 hours picking up trash. Unfortunately, this is 40 hours I could have spent seeing patients or advocating for universal, comprehensive, health care reform. And feel free to contact Sen. Baucus and let him know what you think of his reneging on his promise. But most importantly, know that I will proudly leave the Mall cleaner than I found it and I will continue to advocate, and if necessary, get arrested again, until everyone in America has access to quality health care. Sens. Baucus, Cardin and Mikulski and Rep. Hoyer will no doubt see to it that the quality remains high if they have the same health insurance that you and I have.
Dr. CAROL PARIS lives in Leonardtown, Maryland.