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Why I’m Protesting Health Care Reform: Voices of the Opposition

They came early. They came angry. They came from Georgia, Texas, Ohio, New Jersey and nearly every state in between.

Hundreds of Tea Party Patriots gathered Saturday on Capitol Hill to officially voice — once again — their revulsion for nearly every part of the health care reform law. As rain pounded around them, the crowd steamed over the same concerns that inspired this movement three years ago: the federal government has gone too far; Americans can’t be forced to buy anything; personal freedom in health care will soon be extinct.

With the Supreme Court hearing arguments this week over whether the entire law — or pieces of it — should be ruled unconstitutional, their familiar “Repeal the Law” chants took on new weight.

Over the past two years, the NewsHour has analyzed the impact of health care reform with analysts, pollsters, politicians and statisticians. We now turn our lens back to ordinary Americans who both fear and applaud the law.

First up: the opposition, featuring voices from Saturday’s rally. Check back Tuesday for stories of Americans who say the law has changed their lives for the better.

Alicia Allen and Ashley Adkerson, Adairsville, Ga.

Adkerson: “We came out to show our support against Obamacare. I think buying health insurance should be up to the individual. And although we’re under the illusion you can keep your health care insurance, our insurance has already been raised. Ours have gone up $40 a week. We see that continuing to happen as long as we’re forced to make sure every American is insured. It’s going to get worse as people decide to get on the national plan instead of keeping their own health care insurance.”

Allen: “I’m only 17 and I’m going to have to deal with this for the rest of my life if this law gets put in place. And I don’t like anything in it. You should be able to choose your doctors. The government shouldn’t be doing that for you. It’s too socialist. I have great insurance, but when Obamacare goes into place, the price is going to skyrocket, I’m not going to be able to see the doctors I want. Everything’s going to be decided for me.”

Dan Lantz, Meigs County, Ohio

Lantz: “This mandate is not freedom. When you gotta jump through so many hoops just to earn an honest living, that ain’t America no more, in my book. When I growed up, if you put your sweat and toil into it, you could be anything you wanted to be. And I tell you what, when I became half owner of a sawmill at 18 years old, you better believe I felt the dream was true. Today, it’s just stifling. I’ve got three daughters. I want them to know they can do whatever they want to do. I don’t want them to feel that in order to get there, they’ve got to talk to a half dozen bureaucrats and beg on bended knee to live their dreams.”

Nelda Pennington, Amarillo, Texas

Pennington: “One of the things that caught my attention is how the elderly are going to be treated — as if we can no longer contribute to society. There are a lot of rumors going around about a euthanasia type of thing — death panels, in other words. If you cannot do something for society, they’re going to do something about you being a drain on the system, so to speak. We want to keep our freedoms and our liberties because we feel like they are slowly melting away. There are a lot of things that have happened in the past where some of us wish that we had stood up — like taking prayer out of school. That’s where all of this started. Some of us did not stand and now we have a chance to. So here we are.”

Dan Schluter, Southern Maryland; William Temple, Brunswick, Ga.; Paul Wheeler, Indianapolis

Temple: “We are here to protest the Supreme Court. There’s been a lack of wisdom since Roe vs. Wade. They are taking away our freedoms and our liberties, guaranteed to us by the founders. And we are aghast that we have $16 trillion in debt and they’re adding to it. George Washington spoke against debt as a sin, both for a person and for the government. The health mandate is an act of tyranny. It’s the first act of tyranny since we kicked the British butts out of this country. It was signed into law one year ago by President Obama.

Schluter: Two years ago.

Temple: Has it been that long?

Wheeler: Yes, dreadfully long.

Temple: Well we’re hoping that some wise men in that building over there (pointing toward Supreme Court) will make the right decision. Because they’re pushing the American people to the point, as Jefferson said, where people might shed a little blood every so often. Now I hope that never happens because I’m a pastor at a church in Brunswick. But as you’ll remember, the first revolution was led by pastors. We kicked the British out for usurping their power and not treating us like good British citizens, but now we might as well bring the British back. Sixteen trillion dollars in debt? Let’s bring back good King George. He didn’t give us that.”

Wheeler: (laughing) William, you do go on and on.

Michael Nichhaski, Loudoun County, Va.

Nichhaski: “Basically I think Obamacare is a big overstep of government policy, and there’s a lot of better ways to do it than having a federal, one-size-fits-all approach to health care. For example, allowing insurance companies to sell policies across all state lines. When there are only six health care companies, obviously they can drive up costs of health care. I also think the government already controls over 50 percent of health care with Medicare and Medicaid. And that’s not a free-market approach. They’re driving up the costs. And that’s an artificial cost, that’s not a real cost. I definitely think there are some better approaches. People could opt out of their Medicare, opt out of their Social Security, if they could afford to do that. Some of the things Paul Ryan’s come up with lately have also been good ideas.”

Ariana Roveda and her mother, Monica Murray, New Jersey

Murray: “If we don’t manage to stop the takeover of our health care system, then the Republic will be dead, we will be more socialized than Germany and France, and it will be the nail in the coffin to our freedoms. The government does nothing well, the estimates are already twice what they said it would be — the CBO says it’s going to be over $1.7 trillion. The only way is to ration health care and the seniors will be the ones that suffer the most and the children. Tell your mother to get her knee replaced or any valve replacements she might need. Anybody over 73 will soon be denied. A lot of things will have to be rationed in order to do what they want to accomplish. My daughter is only six and she understands freedom. She knows that liberals are bad people. She understands Obama’s bad.”

Ariana: We want to take over Barack Obama.

Murray: That’s right. And we believe in what document?

Ariana: Glenn Beck?

Murray: (laughing) No, the Constitution.

Harrison Martin, Fauquier County, Va.

Martin: “What upsets me most is we’re taking away control from those who are trained in medicine. Bureaucrats don’t know medicine. I’m on the outskirts of the medical field as a massage therapist and I know the training I had to go through in order to learn every muscle, ligament and tendon in the body. I can’t imagine how much more a doctor would have to learn. And someone who has never taken pre-med is going to assume that they know what’s better as far as treatment goes? Most of us here, whether you’re a libertarian, conservative, Republican or what, most of us believe in small government. That’s why we have local and state governments in the first place.”

Don Wert, Central Pennsylvania

Wert: “A lot of the different government regulations that are coming in are taking control. I just heard a report this week that they want to change women’s Pap smears from a yearly thing to every five years or so. That’s just an example. Even the doctors now are very sensitive to how soon you come back to the doctor, the kinds of tests and treatments you get, and that’s certainly not free enterprise. I understand there is a problem, of course, but I don’t think this is the solution.”

Patrick Welsh, Lincoln University, Pa.

Welsh: “I’m an avid patriot, and I believe that our country is on a terrible path, where socialism is encroaching. And I believe socialism is the red herring of communism. Nikita Khrushchev said in 1971, ‘We’ll never get the American people to embrace communism, but we can make their leaders give them small doses of socialism till one day they awake with communism.’ That’s not what we’re about here. We’re about freedom and liberty. We believe that, yes, we must take care of our fellow man. But that’s from the wellspring inside us — whatever God, or not, that you choose. It is not something our government forces upon you. We believe that it’s life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Not life, liberty and the handout of happiness. It’s like George Bailey said (to Mr. Potter in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’), ‘You’re nothing but a spider.’ They want to control everything and force people to do things. We won’t have it.”

Arlene Smith and Allen Dunn, Arlington, Va.

Smith: “I hope that the justices notice the large crowd here and realize that each of us represents hundreds of other people who are against this government, which is really doing a takeover. It actually started before the Obama administration, but it’s come to a peak at this point.”

Dunn: “The socialist-progressive agenda, which will lead to socialism, has been taking over the power in the government, so we’ve got to reverse it. Having the power to force me to purchase an insurance policy — it inevitably will lead to me being dictated as to which physician that I go to, the hospital, the type of drugs that I can and cannot take. The very idea that I should be forced to switch plans is obnoxious. It’s worse than that. It’s intolerable.”

Smith: “And that’s just one component. This particular administration has reached into so many areas. This is not the Soviet Socialist Republic, but it’s starting to feel that way. We have to stop it now. But I’m not sure which way the Supreme Court is going to go. People far more knowledgeable than me about the law don’t know either. We’ll just have to wait and see. Hope and pray.”

All photos by Victoria Fleischer.

Our Health Page is full of additional information on the health reform law — including a timeline, a report card, a cheat sheet, and a public polling update. If you have more questions about the law or the Supreme Court case, ask them here and on Twitter using the hashtag #HCRchat. We’ll answer them in an online chat at 1 p.m. ET Tuesday.

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