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Health Rights Are Civil Rights

Health Rights Are Civil Rights: Peace and Justice Activism in Los Angeles, 1963–1978

Jenna M. Loyd
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Health Rights Are Civil Rights
    Book Description:

    Health Rights Are Civil Rightstells the story of the important place of health in struggles for social change in Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s. Jenna M. Loyd describes how Black freedom, antiwar, welfare rights, and women's movement activists formed alliances to battle oppressive health systems and structural violence, working to establish the principle that health is a right. For a time-with President Nixon, big business, and organized labor in agreement on national health insurance-even universal health care seemed a real possibility.

    Health Rights Are Civil Rightsdocuments what many Los Angeles activists recognized: that militarization was in part responsible for the inequalities in American cities. This challenging new reading of suburban white flight explores how racial conflicts transpired across a Southland landscape shaped by defense spending. While the war in Vietnam constrained social spending, the New Right gained strength by seizing on the racialized and gendered politics of urban crisis to resist urban reinvestment and social programs. Recapturing a little-known current of the era's activism, Loyd uses an intersectional approach to show why this diverse group of activists believed that democratic health care and ending war making were essential to create cities of freedom, peace, and social justice-a vision that goes unanswered still today.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4144-8
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. INTRODUCTION: War, American Exceptionalism, and the Place of Health Activism
    (pp. 1-20)

    Nobel Prize–winning chemist Linus Pauling was not the only peace demonstrator on the streets of Los Angeles in the early 1960s. In April 1961 he and some 2,500 women, men, and children treaded the handful of miles from MacArthur Park south to Exposition Park to demand world peace and disarmament. An even larger demonstration was held several months later when 4,000 women gathered in front of City Hall to protest the resumption of atmospheric nuclear testing. They were part of an impromptu national network calling itself Women Strike for Peace. Many of these women came to the streets as...

  2. Part I. Desegregating Health, Transforming Health Care

    • CHAPTER 1 Urban Geopolitics and the Fight for “Equal Justice in Health Care Now”
      (pp. 23-50)

      When liberal Connecticut senator Abraham Ribicoff came to Los Angeles in 1963 to commemorate the anniversary of a Southland hospital, he exposed the Cold War racial politics shaping U.S. cities and health care. Ribicoff had just served in President Kennedy’s cabinet as the head of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW), where he engaged in a high-profile showdown with the American Medical Association (AMA) over Medicare, a federal health care program for the elderly that Kennedy was then pushing. During his speech, he questioned why the nation would prioritize spending money on the space race “while we let children in the...

    • CHAPTER 2 Watts, the War on Poverty, and the Promise of Community Control
      (pp. 51-76)

      On the night of May 7, 1966, Leonard Deadwyler was driving his wife, Barbara, who was experiencing labor pains, from Watts to Los Angeles County Hospital, some ten miles to the north. Police pulled the car over after a fifty-block pursuit. One of the officers leaned into the driver’s side window with his revolver drawn. The officer claimed his gun discharged accidentally after the car lurched, but Barbara Deadwyler maintained that the car had never moved and that the officer shot Leonard in cold blood. As he lay on his wife’s lap dying, his last words were, “She’s having a...

  3. Part II. Urban Crisis

    • CHAPTER 3 Economic Conversion, Survival, and Race in “Dodge City”
      (pp. 79-104)

      Over the Easter and Passover weekend of 1964, an ad hoc committee comprising a broad range of religious, peace, civil rights, labor groups, and progressive political parties held a Walk and Rally for Peace, Jobs and Freedom. This event, and ongoing coalition work, advanced the idea that peace abroad and justice at home were mutual goals: “Issues can no longer be treated as separate and distinct. We are part of a common thread of humanity that is seeking peace, a better standard of living, emancipation from oppression, and opportunity for our youth.” Jobs served as the symbolic and concrete connection...

    • CHAPTER 4 Mothering Underground: The Home in Women’s Welfare and Peace Organizing
      (pp. 105-126)

      In 1959 vice president richard nixon and Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev held the storied “kitchen debate” at the American National Exhibit in Moscow. Media crews assembled around the global antagonists, who were staged in a state-of-the-art suburban kitchen. In their banter, Nixon claimed that the place of “our housewives” simultaneously distinguished and united the Cold War camps. “Would it not,” he asked, “be better to compete in the relative merits of washing machines than in the strength of rockets?”¹ This event underscores how the home became ideological ground zero during the Cold War.

      Of course, not all women were content...

    • CHAPTER 5 The War at Home: Forging Interracial Solidarities for Peace and Freedom
      (pp. 127-150)

      In late june 1970, three hundred welfare mothers delivered completed job applications for themselves and another seven hundred women to the Los Angeles County Supervisors meeting. They aimed to illustrate the gap between the elected officials’ rhetoric and the women’s desire for work. Catherine Jermany, who was head of the Los Angeles County Welfare Rights Organization in the late 1960s and early 1970s, explained to theLos Angeles Times:“We are tired of being used as political pawns by crackpot politicians who say we are lazy and don’t want to work.”¹ The five supervisors—who in 1970 each represented over...

  4. Part III. Cold War Body Politics

    • CHAPTER 6 Population Scares and Antiviolence Roots of Reproductive Justice
      (pp. 153-180)

      In 1964 the mississippi house of representatives passed a bill to reduce illegitimate child birth by punishing parents with prison time or sterilization. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) quickly publishedGenocide in Mississippi, in which they analyzed the bill’s intent to “drive Negroes from Mississippi, and to render those who refused to leave incapable of having children.”¹ Stalwart civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer delivered a speech to the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), a group in which she was also a member. She recounted how she had been sterilized without her consent in 1961. She...

    • CHAPTER 7 Where Is Health? The Place of the Clinic in Social Change
      (pp. 181-206)

      Carrying signs that read “People’s health, not MD’s wealth” and “AMA, 1st in war, 18th in infant mortality,” radical doctors joined members of welfare rights, peace, feminist, and gay liberation groups to take over the 1970 annual meeting of the American Medical Association held that year in Chicago. This was one of the People’s Health Care Convention’s planned events, which included workshops and forums on women’s health, racism in medicine, ending the profit-orientation of medicine, and ending medicine’s collaboration with the war machine. They intended to present a collective “indictment” at the opening ceremonies that included demands drafted by the...

    • CHAPTER 8 “Property Rights over Human Life”: Taxes and Austerity in the Divided City
      (pp. 207-238)

      Proposition 13 was an anti-tax amendment passed by California voters in 1978 that helped fuel a wave of tax limitation measures across the nation and made taxes the third rail of California politics for decades to come. Health scholar and advocate Geraldine Dallek warned in theLos Angeles Times(which seems to have misspelled her name as Dalleck) that community health would suffer from cuts that would be made to California’s public hospital and clinic services: “Because the California electorate demanded such severe budget cuts they have, in fact, placed property rights over human life.”¹ Dallek’s fear was not editorial...

  5. Epilogue: The Right to Health Meets the Right to the City
    (pp. 239-248)

    New light rail tracks gleamed in the street, and construction barriers for landscaping and sidewalks still lined the stretch of Figueroa Boulevard where hundreds of us gathered in December 2010. We had made our way from the second South Los Angeles Health and Human Rights conference to where a community hospital once stood. It was now a vacant lot used for parking and attended by vigilant security guards. Across the street, signs advertised luxury condominiums that were a short train ride from downtown Los Angeles to the north and the University of Southern California to the south. We began walking...