Capitol Hill Days 2017
After a jam packed weekend, more than 350 Population Connection activists were galvanized and ready to take action. On Monday morning, participants stormed the Capitol with the goal to advocate for a greater U.S. investment in global reproductive health and family planning and support for the Global HER Act. Representing 34 states, first time activists teamed with seasoned participants and visited nearly 200 congressional offices.
Armed with the knowledge from the weekend, advocates put pressure on their elected officials to stand up for family planning. In the meetings, advocates asked for an investment of $1.2 billion dollars for international family planning assistance, including $65 million for UNFPA. Advocates also asked for support of the Global HER Act (H.R 161 and S. 210), a bill which would block Trump’s Global Gag Rule and prevent a future president from reinstating it.
Nearly 90 advocates from Ohio filled a room in a meeting with Senator Sherrod Brown’s office. Advocating for the Global HER Act, participants shared their personal stories in the hope of gaining support. Large groups from North Carolina, Colorado, and Arizona also filled their Senate and House offices. Their efforts were rewarded with an additional representative signing onto H.R 161 the Global HER Act.
This year’s event began on Friday night with the 3rd annual “Empower Her, Empower Humanity” award ceremony. This year’s honoree was Congresswoman Barbara Lee. Accepted by her legislative assistant, M. A Keifer, the award pays tribute to Congresswoman Lee’s strong commitment to reproductive rights and family planning.
Throughout the course of the weekend, participants strengthened their advocacy skills with a variety of workshops led by experts in the field.
Dianah Nalwanga of Uganda’s Conservation through Public Health (CTPH), shed light on population, family planning, and conservation. . CTPH works with volunteer and community health teams in protected areas of Uganda, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Rwanda to provide family planning and family planning education and to promote public health practices and conservation. CTPH was founded to protect the mountain gorilla population in Uganda threatened by human population growth in the area. Their important work directly and vividly illustrates the intrinsic link between family planning and environmental sustainability.
Chloe Cooney of Planned Parenthood and Jessica Marcella from the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association discussed the recent increase in attacks to reproductive rights. Chloe reminded the group that, “You only get what you fight for. And we’ve got to fight every step of the way.”
Sunday morning’s powerful keynote address by Dr. Jamila Perritt, an Obstetrician and Gynecologist and advocate for reproductive rights, offered a deeper perspective into what is at often at stake for individual women facing restrictions of reproductive health care. She assured that crowd that, “No matter what happens, abortion providers will keep fighting, providing care.”
The newly-minted activists began Capitol Hill lobby visits bright and early on Monday morning, visiting nearly 200 Senate and House offices! Tag Mosholder, a student from Colorado, remarked that “Participating in Capitol Hills Days with Population Connection was an incredible experience… I would highly recommend this experience for anyone interested in grassroots advocacy or simply those looking to get involved with the political process by lobbying lawmakers on salient women’s rights issues, both at home and abroad.”
You can help keep up the momentum by adding your name to the petition and calling on your own legislator to support the Global HER Act. More than 6,200 activists have already urge Congress to #Fight4HER and permanently repeal Trump’s Global Gag Rule.
No matter where your members of Congress stand, they need to hear from you that family planning and reproductive health matters!
Take some inspiration from these awesome Arizona students who were filmed during their experience on Capitol Hill!
-Cronkite News video by Anthony Marroquin