April 13, 2010

On the wrong side of history

Our neighbor Lorraine Collins always has an interesting perspective on a wide range of topics. Here's another that should catch your interest -- and perhaps spur a comment or two. Her commentaries appear regularly in the Black Hills Pioneer, and she graciously allows us to share them with on-line readers here.

The first column I wrote for the Black Hills Pioneer in August, 2006, concerned the slow and reluctant implementation of Title IX, which mandated equal treatment for women and girls in schools and colleges. I reported that it was only then, after 30 years, that Black Hills State University was finally making some real progress in offering women's sports programs.~

One thing I noted in that article was that the State of South Dakota had filed a "friend of the court" brief in a case before the Supreme Court of the United States, supporting the city of Birmingham, Alabama fighting against Title IX. I wondered why South Dakota would defend the right of the Birmingham school district to say that it was okay for the school to fire a girls basketball coach when he complained that the girls team had to pay their own way to games and were allowed less practice time than boys and so forth. Why on earth would citizens of South Dakota defend such a thing?

I contacted the Attorney General's office to inquire. I was told that they had undertaken this at the request of the Associated School Boards of South Dakota and that the state did not have to spend any money to do this. The specific argument was that the coach was not covered by Title IX since he was not a girl, just a coach of girls. Luckily, Birmingham and South Dakota lost the argument, but I was pretty embarrassed to live in a state that would join such a lawsuit. It certainly demonstrated that when it came to equality for women, we were on the wrong side of history.

Now, all these years later, I'm embarrassed again. My state is party to a lawsuit to deny implementation of the health care reform act. Apparently this time the lawsuit will cost taxpayers some money, though Gov. Rounds said on PBS that he hoped it wouldn't be more than $30,000. I hope not, since I am told by most sources the lawsuit is frivolous and doomed. Those who think it's a great idea to sue the government cite Medicaid costs or they object to the federal government mandating that citizens buy health insurance. These are legitimate concerns, but since these folks also object to the so-called public option or anything as radical as single-payer health insurance, the only idea they seem to have is to leave everything as it is now.

But so far I have never heard any pundit or political leader claim that what we have now is doing the job of providing health care for millions of people, or reducing costs, or limiting fraud and abuse. Now finally, after decades of inaction, a year of argument, millions of dollars spent on lobbying and advertisements opposing health care reform, we have the beginning of some attempt to do something. At least we are finally on the road to trying to reform a health care system that burdens businesses and families, denies coverage to millions and costs us millions of dollars more than any other country in the world even though the World Health Organization ranks the US only 37th among nations in health care.

There will no doubt be detours and, I hope, improvements. But we have to start somewhere. Because of what seem to be the political realities in this country, and how the system works, we're starting here. Better than not starting at all. It's going to happen, more slowly than we may imagine, less perfectly than we'd like. But we are finally going to achieve something that many other nations have achieved generations ago.

So I'm sorry that the only thing we South Dakotans seem to think of doing is to join a law suit to try to stop it. This does not put us on the right side of history.

Lorraine Collins is a writer who lives in Spearfish. she can be contacted at collins1@rushmore.com.

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