State Politics

Ben Carson saved her life. Now she wants a word with him about health care and more

Rebekah Barber, the daughter of Rev. William Barber II, holds her wrists out while being arrested Tuesday, May 30, 2017 at the NC Legislative building. Thirty-two people were arrested for second-degree trespassing according to General Assembly police chief Martin Brock.
Rebekah Barber, the daughter of Rev. William Barber II, holds her wrists out while being arrested Tuesday, May 30, 2017 at the NC Legislative building. Thirty-two people were arrested for second-degree trespassing according to General Assembly police chief Martin Brock. tlong@newsobserver.com

Since the beginning of the Moral Monday rallies at North Carolina’s hub of lawmaking in the capital city, it’s not unusual to see the Rev. William J. Barber II, the architect of the movement, arrested.

This week, two others in the Barber family were among the 32 protesters arrested — his wife and daughter.

“It is not easy for me to talk about my family because of the threats and very vile attacks that are often leveled against me by very mean-spirited and confused people,” Barber said on Wednesday, confirming the connection. “However, my daughter and wife made a very personal and very prayerful decision yesterday.”

Rebecca Barber, wife of the leader of the state NAACP, has worked in health care for nearly three decades as a nurse, her husband said, and has become increasingly troubled by Republicans’ proposed rewrite of the Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare, and what that could mean for her patients.

Rebekah Barber, their daughter, was particularly moved by the health care debate because of her experience with hydrocephalus, which causes fluid to accumulate on the brain. Twice, she has had to undergo surgery to have a shunt, or drain, inserted or adjusted to relieve the buildup of fluid.

Dr. Ben Carson, the former Johns Hopkins pediatric neurosurgeon, was her surgeon both times — first when she was 18 months old and later when she was 10.

More than 100 protesters swarmed the state Legislative Building on May 30,2017 to call for better health care coverage on the state and national levels, leading to the arrests of 32 people, including the Rev. William Barber II.

In the years since, Carson ran for president in the Republican primary and more recently was named by President Donald Trump to lead the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In 2013, Carson told an audience of supporters at the Values Voter Summit in Washington that, “Obamacare is really I think the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery. And it is in a way, it is slavery in a way, because it is making all of us subservient to the government, and it was never about health care. It was about control.”

Since then, Carson has offered health care plans that would repeal Obamacare, privatize Medicare, set up health care accounts for citizens at birth and move more control over Medicaid to the states from the federal government. He said late last year that he planned to help Trump shape his health care plan.

“I remember him a little bit,” Rebekah Barber, 23, said on Wednesday. “But we didn’t talk politics or anything like that.”

A recent college graduate who works as a research assistant in the Triangle area, Rebekah Barber said she would love to have a discussion with Carson. As a young professional with a pre-existing condition, Rebekah Barber worries about the proposed rollback of the Affordable Care Act. She also wants to talk with Carson about a statement he made earlier this month calling poverty “a state of mind.” In a radio interview, Carson criticized government aid and safety-net programs as holding people back and leading to a mindset against work.

“He is a great surgeon, but that has nothing to do with his moral compass,” Rebekah Barber said. “I would tell him that as human beings our job is to save lives,” she said. “You know he saved my life and I’m thankful for that. I’m still going to hold him accountable. It’s so interesting. From his operating on me, now I have the ability to speak truth to power.”

A spokesman for HUD declined to comment on Carson’s behalf.

Barber said she has gotten used to the idea that speaking her mind might sometimes lead to arrest. She was arrested last year, protesting House Bill 2.

“I’m just a firm believer, with everything going on, we have to take a stand.” she said.

The Barbers and 29 others arrested on Tuesday at the state Legislative Building were charged with second-degree trespassing for blocking the offices of Senate leader Phil Berger and Senate Rules Committee Chairman Bill Rabon, according to General Assembly Police Chief Martin Brock.

Anne Blythe: 919-836-4948, @AnneBlythe1

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