You have a choice. OK, so maybe you did not choose to have to sit on the stirrup throne while a gallery of RE’s and fellows ooh and ahh at your lady bits or the equivalent for the male audience. I am also sure you did not choose to spend tens of thousands in out of pocket medical expenses to cover treatment for a disease that is not recognized by most insurance companies. No one choses to be infertile. Or, perhaps another way to say it is no one choses to be afflicted with a life altering disease.
You know what though? You still have a choice.
1. Do nothing.
2. Do something.
Approximately 170 professionals, patients…ADVOCATES decided to choose option 2. They did something. We joined RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association and became part of a louder collective voice addressing pro-family legislation and issues. RESOLVE, coordinates an annual event that is close to my heart called Advocacy Day. This is where we the people exercise our civic rights as Americans and meet with congressional leaders to ask for their support on legislation that will greatly impact couples seeking reproductive assistance, financial relief and increased family building options like adoption. Last week we asked our members the following:
• Consider funding the CDC National Action Plan for the Detection, Prevention, and Management of Infertility
• Co-Sponsor H.R. 2257 Which would lift the ban on IVF at the VA for veterans seeking reproductive treatment
• Co-Sponsor S 469 The Women Veterans and Other Health Services Act of 2015
• Co-Sponsor S 950 The Adoption Tax Credit
This was our time and moment to take control, be noticed, do something about the issues that we feel are unjust. Advocacy Day is one of sanguinity and is a platform to educate our representatives on how they can help build and enable families to live that American dream. It is also a gathering of all of those who have a different story to tell, with the common thread that binds us, which is we are all affected in some way by the disease of infertility. There is something therapeutic, empowering and shall I dare say it, hopeful about being in a room with hundreds of people who are there to be the spark that ignites what will help future families.
This year, I had the honor of being able to work closely with the hard working RESOLVE staff and 2 of the most brilliant and empowering women I have met; Advocacy Day Chair Lee Collins and fellow Vice-Co Chair Candace Trinchieri. We all worked on this event for months with many selfless volunteers along side us to help this event be successful. Even though Advocacy Day was over at the close of business on May 14th, our work has just begun. In the world of all things politicky, you just don’t show up, tell someone you want something done and walk away brushing your hands together. You follow-up, you build a rapport and keep in their line of sight. Consider yourself a squeaky wheel, has it been oiled? No? Well keep on squeaking until it does.
So here are a just a few tips on how you can be a 365 day a year advocate:
1. Govtrack.us is an awesome site. No really. It a wonderful tool for stalking, ummm I mean tracking a bill and checking to see if your rep has sponsored it. Just set up a log in, enter in: S. 469, S. 950 and H.R. 2257 to track and that’s it (For AD 2015 issues). Then you will see a play by play of who is co-sponsoring and the status of the bill. This will save you time and a few Google searches. #winning
2. Follow up with your congressional leader on social media thanking them for meeting with you or if they support your bill, give them a kudos for their support. Then of course have folks Re-tweet and “Like” your comment for extra bonus points.
3. Send an email to the staffer/office you met with or wrote a letter to, thank them for your meeting and ask them if they have any questions. If they do, and you need help answering them, email the good folks at RESOLVE, they will guide you on how to respond.
4. Follow up quarterly with your staffer. ASK questions: Do you have further questions about these pro-family bills and issues? Will Congressman X co-sponsor them? What can we do to see that this happens? Remember my whole “squeaky wheel diatribe?” SQUEAK baby SQUEAK.
5. Go to events that your Rep/Senator will be at and introduce yourself. “Hi I met with your office in May …” or “I submitted a constituent letter to your office about….” This literally happened to me last weekend when I ran into our Senator at a local event. Luck and good timing yes, BUT I had a chance to talk about why I needed his support, which was a rare but valuable opportunity. Be an opportunist.
6. Project PROTECT – This is a great program and opportunity to build relationships with the elected officials within your state to help promote fertility-friendly legislation and more so, to fight against anti-family legislation that may arise in your state. Check out more information HERE to become involved.
Let’s get real here for a second folks. I go back to the statement I made earlier. You have a choice. I choose to advocate for my daughter, your future child and the next generation of miracles and sadly the ones that will experience empty arms. I cried way too many tears and endured too much heartache to just hang up my hat and walk away like my infertility never happened. It happened and it is something I will never forget. We fight for the future 1 in 8. So I leave you with this, when the dust settles will you still kick up some dirt with me?
Save the date: Advocacy Day 2016…and be heard.