The following advocate training resources are designed to prepare you for your appointments with Members of Congress. The morning training the day of your appointments is jam packed and so a little preparation ahead of time will help. You should start reading the information at the top and work your way to the bottom, ending with several “to dos” that will have you very prepared to have successful meetings with your Members of Congress.
Tip And Tricks
Thank you for being an advocate for the infertility movement. Coming to Washington, D.C. to meet with your elected officials is an empowering experience. Make sure you are prepared to storm the halls on Capitol Hill by reading through the tip and tricks articles below. These articles have everything you need to prepare you for a successful day on Capitol Hill. Read on for advocate training resources that will help you prepare for Advocacy Day:
Day of Advocacy Day Materials
Here are the materials that will be provided to you on the day of the Morning Training. We will give you a copy of each of these handouts at the Training in a packet so there is no need to print these out and bring them with you. However, make sure you read through them before the event. Annie Kuo and Kelly Garrity break down the issues in their, Create Change! Blog
- Dos And Don’ts For Meetings
- Getting Around Capitol Hill Instructions
- Working As A State Delegation
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Social Media Flyer
2019 Key Committees
The Advocates Survival Kit for Advocacy Day
Advocacy Day is fast approaching and because I care passionately about the amazingly dedicated advocates traveling from all over the country to be a part of this incredible day, I want to make sure you are armed with the essential amenities. Whether it’s your favorite purse, your designated advocating fanny pack or a stylish knapsack, here are a few key items I suggest you have locked and ready in fashionable carrier of choice:
Wireless charger for your phone: Whether you want to take pictures, post updates on social media or text your friend about the senator you just convinced to cover the adoption credit, having a charger to keep your phone juiced up is key.
Pen/Pencil (or any writing implement of some sort): You will no doubt want to take notes to prepare for meetings or write down other advocates phone numbers/email addresses to stay in touch!
Pedometer (or at least one downloaded onto your phone): With this much walking, how can you not want to see how many steps you’ve taken? It’s just too darn impressive.
Antibacterial wipes/liquid: You’ll be shaking a lot of hands and walking around to many different places. I want to keep the advocates healthy long after they return home!
Moleskin or Band-Aids: Even though you should be already wearing hip yet comfortable, well-padded shoes – having a sheet of moleskin or Band-Aids (feel free to get colorful ones!) should a blister arise isn’t a bad idea.
Umbrella/Sunscreen (as the case may be): Check the weather for that day (fingers crossed for sun!) and be prepared.
Gum/Water/Snacks: To keep yourself hydrated, minty fresh and well fed between breakfast and lunch.
Advil or Tylenol: Hopefully, you won’t need either but should any part of you ache from all of the advocating, it’s not a bad idea to have over-the-counter pain management good to go.
Sense of humor and determination: Really though. Two essential things to have with you both on advocacy day and in life!
– Jay Palumbo
Jennifer “Jay” Palumbo is a Writer, Public Speaker, Infertility & Women’s Rights Advocate and Author of the blog, ‘The 2 Week Wait,’ and a Proud IVF Mom. You can follow her on Twitter at either @jennpal (which is non-uterus related) or @the2weekwait (which features fertility-related fun).
Been there, Done That! Advocacy Day Tips from the Experienced Advocate
So you’ve registered for Advocacy Day or you’re considering attending. Don’t know what to expect? We’ve got your back! Here is some advice from experienced Advocates.
RESOLVE hosts the only Advocacy Day for the patient in the infertility community. Advocates leave this event empowered to continue advocating for access to all family building options.
On the very personal side, I’d say be prepared to surprise yourself by who you’ll be at Advocacy Day. You’ll be asking our government to be *fair* to those of us with a disease we never wanted to have. It won’t actually be hard (you’ll be well trained), but the power of our community may blow you away! – Lee
“I wish I had thought of that” tips:
There are small things you may take for granted while preparing for Advocacy Day. Here are some essential tips for a day on Capitol Hill: (Hint, it involves comfortable shoes)
“Grab one of those spare batteries to charge your cell phone off of when it starts running low. I’d also look up some Uber or Lyft coupon codes ahead of time just in case.” -Jen
“I cannot stress hydration and comfy shoes enough! That way you’ll be feeling refreshed and not distracted while you make a real and genuine impact on our country!” – Renée
“Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. Bring a cell phone charger! Try to attend as many of the training/receptions put on by RESOLVE as possible. The more you know about what will happen the more comfortable you will feel”. – Kathy
“I would stress wearing comfortable shoes! I wore heels the first time and it was just awful halfway through the day, bring a water bottle, and umbrella as it can spontaneously rain.” – Marissa
The good news is that RESOLVE hosts a refreshment break usually from 3:00-5:30 PM on Advocacy Day. The location will be on Capitol Hill so to not take you far from your appointments. You can get off your feet, grab a snack and beverage, and share the excitement of your day with fellow advocates.
Travel and hotel tips:
Consider staying at the RESOLVE hotel room block during Advocacy Day. It is usually in the same location as the morning training or very close. Email Simmy Bookal at firstname.lastname@example.org for hotel block information.
“I have stayed in a hotel with other advocates for the last 3 years. Last year was the first that we stayed in the room block RESOLVE provided and it made it easy and nice to see other advocates there to make plans etc. Metro is great in DC. Plan to be up early and ready on advocacy day, running late will add unneeded stress. Overall it’s a GREAT couple of days and you will leave feeling empowered and inspired!“- Lindsey
“The first year – I stayed in the RESOLVE hotel room block. The second year – I stayed in an Airbnb and used the Metro. But then, at the last minute, I acquired a local advocate roommate and we ended up driving in together for the Advocacy Day Morning Training. The D.C. rush hour traffic is NO JOKE! We also realized that there was more than one parking lot associated with the company, after parking and having to hike it much further than expected.
What I learned from this is– stay in the RESOLVE hotel room block if possible, especially if you are traveling across 3 time zones (BRUTAL morning). Go to bed early if you possibly can because all the Washington State advocates felt like zombies by the afternoon…If possible, stick with the Metro vs. driving because it’s faster (and cheaper than parking).” – Annie
If you decide not to stay where RESOLVE has the hotel room block consider the following tip…
“Stay near the metro line and book early! It’s worth a little bit extra 🙂 The first year we stayed near DuPont Circle, which is a very cute and walkable neighborhood with lots of little eateries and shops. The second time we stayed near the zoo and since the zoo is free and in a nice little park it was a lot of fun.” – Marissa
Stay in touch with your Members of Congress:
RESOLVE and our volunteers help you prepare for your appointments before Advocacy Day but it is essential to stay in touch with your Members of Congress after Advocacy Day as well. Hold your Members of Congress accountable by reminding them of our key issues. The infertility community matters and we will not go away!
“I might rehearse your infertility story, as we were asked to tell our story in each of our meetings and we needed an abridged version (it’s a long story :))! SAVE YOUR FOLDER! It’s also not a bad idea to follow up with your Reps. at their local offices when you return. Ours have offices in our town. We used that folder so many times when talking with local officials about advocacy. It was very helpful! Our RE office has a Facebook page and they helped us collect our letters that way, which was very helpful, too!”- Marissa
“Always ask the staffer or member you meet with for their business card. After each meeting jot down a few quick notes on the back of it of key points, you remember from the meeting. It can be anything from something personal they mentioned or an important follow-up request. That way, when you return home and start your post-Advocacy Day follow up all of your notes and contacts are organized for you!” – Candace
We look forward to seeing you this Advocacy Day!
– Simmy Bookal, RESOLVE Manager, Communications and Programs
How You Can Make Advocacy Day a Family Affair
I told my mother about my infertility diagnosis the day my grandmother died. It was only out of necessity when there was talk of scheduling the funeral during one of my doctor appointments. As anyone who has undergone treatment for infertility knows, these appointments happen according to your body’s schedule and not your own.
We were on the phone and I was huddled in a quiet corner at work. I explained that I had an appointment on the morning in question that I absolutely could not cancel. My mother immediately thought of the worst and panicked. She asked what was wrong and I attempted to calm her, explaining that my husband and I had been trying to have a baby and it wasn’t working. It wasn’t like I was dying or anything. The truth? I felt like I was.
Relationships with family can be some of the hardest while dealing with infertility. Your parents are living the role you long for and siblings give your parents the grandchildren you always imagined you would. They announce pregnancies with images of family trees that don’t include your children and therefore don’t include you. During holidays, they gift photo calendars and books with scenes of togetherness that you are excluded from. It’s not intentional and not meant to hurt, but it does. You’re caught between being thrilled for them, so in love with your nieces and nephews, and feeling like you’ve been stabbed in the heart every time you hear them call your sisters mom.
It’s not that my family hasn’t been supportive of me during my journey, they absolutely have. It’s just that it’s often hard for them to know HOW to help. My mother wanted to know what she could do for me but it was difficult to give her suggestions when I wasn’t always sure myself. So, I was grateful when I discovered a possible way for my family to show me extra support by joining me in infertility advocacy.
Two years ago, I attended my first Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C. After feeling so out of control due to my infertility diagnosis for so many years, I felt strong, empowered. Walking the halls of the Capitol, armed with information on bills that would improve the lives of those like me, felt incredible.
Not only that, I was surrounded by people who get it, who get me. I immediately started thinking of family members I might convince to join me the next year. To take part in that experience and get a glimpse into my world. A glimpse of the infertility family that I am now a part of.
Our families are looking for ways to help us through our experience with infertility. They want to be supportive. By inviting them to Advocacy Day, you’re giving them an opportunity to show their support and an opportunity to be a part of your world. Just as you feel excluded from theirs, it’s likely they are feeling excluded from yours when you aren’t as chatty as you once were, miss family vacations due to procedure conflicts, and decline baby shower invitations when it’s emotionally just too hard. Advocacy Day is an opportunity to join together.
My mother attended Advocacy Day with me last year. We had an amazing time chatting in hotel rooms, dining out with infertility family old and new, exploring the city, and asking our legislators to support bills that will help those, like me, with infertility. She’s joining me again this year and one of my sisters might join as well. Seven years into my infertility journey, my family and I are still learning how to navigate our lives and my diagnosis. However, each spring we have Advocacy Day and an opportunity to spend time together, working for change and for greater understanding.
Elizabeth Walker is the founder and curator of The ART of infertility. After her own infertility diagnosis, the focus of her personal photographic work shifted to documenting the lives of those with infertility through portraits and interviews, in order to allow them healing through sharing their stories, and, to share those stories with medical practitioners and legislators, advocating for improvements to the care of those with the disease. In the past, Elizabeth served as a RESOLVE Ambassador and peer-led infertility support group leader. Shas has also served as a volunteer photographer for the Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange.
How to Get Your Doctor to Attend Advocacy Day
Advocacy Day brings together people from varied backgrounds with one purpose: to put a voice to legislation that grows families and limits restrictions to quality care. The experience of putting forward a family friendly agenda was energizing and enriching to me professionally. On a personal level, I was inspired to see so many people coming together with a united focus.
Yet, I have noticed that physicians are relatively underrepresented at this crucial event. In thinking about reasons why they might be less likely to participate, I believe the rationale would involve a few central themes:
- some feel the pressure of being absent from daily practice,
- some question the impact their presence will have on legislators,
- and others believe that their membership in professional societies and participation with groups like RESOLVE lends support to legislative action.
Without a doubt, physicians have busy practices. Most are members of professional organizations, and the current political climate may make many feel the legislative gridlock is insurmountable. So how do we get your doctor to see past these obstacles and focus on the goal of advancing this legislative agenda?
- Make sure your doctor knows about Advocacy Day and what the mission is for this session. Until one of my pharmaceutical industry colleagues discussed the event with me 5 years ago, I was completely unaware of the RESOLVE legislative effort.
- Specifically ask for your doctor’s support and assistance. Physicians chose their profession with the strong desire to help others; it’s a part of our core philosophy. It is very difficult to deny a request for help, specifically for a mission that is designed to improve access to care and patient choice.
- Appeal to the sense of pride that comes from having a noble profession. Let your doctor know that the legislators take extra pause when a physician takes time away from practice to personally visit their D.C. office. Doctors are able to answer questions about medical details of the agenda, providing essential background data that may have significant influence in the way a legislator views and votes on proposed bills.
In summary, physician support is a critical piece in the success of patient advocacy legislation. Like me, many physicians will be moved to action once they are educated about the process and the value of their personal participation.
Jason S. Griffith, M.D.
Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Practice Director
Houston Fertility Institute
The Difference Between a House and Senate Bill: How Legislation Becomes Law
To be an effective advocate, a rudimentary understanding of our Constitutional structure and role of the different government bodies is mandatory. Leaving out State Government and State laws (which vary widely across the 50 states!), the Federal Government is comprised of three branches: the Executive (the President), the Legislature (there are two “Chambers of Congress” in our Federal Legislature, the House of Representatives, of which there are 435 Members of Congress; and the Senate, of which there are 100 Senators), and the Judiciary (the Supreme Court). The role of the President comes at the very end.
Our focus on Advocacy Day is “Congress”, that is, the House and Senate. When you arrive in Washington, D.C. for Advocacy Day, you will discover that the building called “The Capitol” is in the center of a whole area called Capitol Hill. As you face The Capitol, the Senate office buildings are on the right side and the House office buildings are on the left side. Thinking about the separate sides, and how House Members and Senators meet in the middle, is helpful in thinking about how “bills” are made into “laws”.
Each of the two sides of Congress operates separately as bills are introduced by individual or multiple members of each of the two bodies. The person or persons introducing the bills are called “sponsors”. Representatives (also called Congressmen or Congresswomen) introduce “House Bills”, designated by the letters “HR” (House Resolution) before the number of the bill (which is assigned when the bill is “dropped” – literally – in a “hopper” in the House) and Senators introduce “Senate Bills” (designated by the letter “S” before the number of the bill). A member of the House of Representatives does not have a say on any Senate bill and a Senator does not have a vote on a House bill. Pay attention to the letter designation before the number to know which one is which!
In addition to the original Sponsor (sometimes there are two sponsors – ideally a Democrat and a Republican so that a bill is truly bi-partisan), Members of Congress and Senators can show their support for bills in their Chamber by becoming a “Co-Sponsor”. By doing so, legislators are demonstrating their support for a bill to their colleagues. Further, the number of co-sponsors is one measure of the likelihood of a bill being passed when it is brought to a vote. Finally, when a bill is being reviewed by the relevant Committee (discussed below), having a significant number of co-sponsors incentivizes the Committee to prioritize that bill over less popular bills.
Bills on each side (see? It’s helpful to think of the geography of the two sides of Capitol Hill!) move separately through each of the two legislative bodies. After a bill is dropped or introduced, it is assigned for review and discussion to various committees that are part of each side of Congress. In order to be voted on by the entire membership of either the House or Senate, the relevant committees analyze the bill which means that they may hold “hearings” on it (where people testify for or against) or “mark it up” (revise it) or take other action as they see fit for the relevant bill (in order to skip this step, a bill can be “discharged”, which requires a 2/3 vote of the membership of the House or Senate, as the case may be).
After a bill moves through and passes out of the Committee (or Committees), it is sent to either the Speaker of the House or the Majority Leader of the Senate who decide whether it will be scheduled for a vote. If the Speaker or Leader schedules a bill for a vote, it is then voted on by the entire body of the Chamber.
Once it is voted on – and passes – the differences between a House and Senate bill (unless there are companion bills – more on that later) are worked out in “conference”. This is where Members of the House and Members of the Senate finally meet to synchronize the differences between two bills that may have been passed by the House and the Senate. For example, think about the Budget bills that the two chambers of Congress may send up to Conference – the members of the “Conference Committee” on the Budget will have a lot to discuss! If there is not a bill on a particular matter in each of the House and Senate, once a bill is passed by one Chamber, it is sent to the other for a vote. If it does not get a vote in both Chambers, the bill dies.
To maximize chance of success of a bill passing, the House and Senate may have “companion” bills, when a Member of Congress and a Senator introduce matching bills. This doesn’t always work, because the membership of the two bodies varies by party and power, as well as by the internal workings of how each of the bodies works with its members. If the two Chambers have “companion bills”, once it is voted on, it is sent directly to the President for signature (or veto), and it does not need to pass through the Conference Committee.
Sometimes, legislation may be proposed by way of an “amendment”. An amendment can relate to the substantive subject of the bill to which it attaches, or it can be a method to raise an issue that might otherwise not get attention or get through to a vote on its own. An amendment attached to a big bill is one way that even companion bills may differ, and again, the differences between the two bills and the amendments attached to them are worked out by the Conference Committee. Adding an amendment to a bill that is almost out of committee is a way to expedite passage of the amendment.
Once a bill has been revised in conference, it is sent back to each of the House and Senate floors for approval of the full membership of the respective Chamber. After it has been so approved, it is then sent to the President for his or her signature or veto. If the President signs the bill, it finally becomes a LAW. Whew!
Our purpose on Advocacy Day each year depends on where our issues stand in the process explained above. This year we will ask Members of Congress on both sides to co-sponsor our bills and we will ask the Senate offices to vote for an amendment. To learn more about the bills we support, read the “Issues” page on this website.
Risa A. Levine, Esq. is a Board Member for RESOLVE and previous Advocacy Day Chair.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Handling Hesitant Reps
So you are heading to Advocacy Day, and there are lots of emotions swirling around in your stomach, especially for first timers! What is it going to be like? What will I say to representatives and their aides? How will they respond?
For many of us, especially those who are new to Advocacy Day, the idea of talking about our infertility to people who we have never met before can be overwhelming at first. After all, opening up to our closest friends and families sometimes poses a challenge, how can we discuss this with political figures? While the buildings and hallways leading to the representatives’ offices are as grand as the shiny plaques on their doors, keep in mind that they are ELECTED officials and that THEY are working for YOU.
Here are some tips to calm your nerves and stay the course during your meetings, especially with reps who may not “get” infertility at the start:
It is hard not to have anxiety going into Advocacy Day. The more anxious you are before your meetings, the harder they can feel. Preparation can be a great foil to anxiety! RESOLVE does a great job preparing advocates for the tasks at hand. Make sure to be a part of the private Advocacy Facebook group.
Make sure to attend the trainings and read up on and become intimately familiar with all of the key issues to hit in your meetings. While RESOLVE will also have a refresher of the information the morning of Advocacy Day and actual notes to take with you to meetings, it is ideal to have this information fully memorized, this way you can speak from your heart in the meetings and focus on your personal story without feeling flustered.
Do Be Authentic
Your personal story changes hearts and minds. You have the ability to bring the key issues to life and make the seemingly political, personal. Before Advocacy Day, think about your story and try to frame it and condense it in a way that is clear, emotional and relatable. You may want to research ahead of time if the representative has a family of his or her own. How would that representative feel if she were still struggling to build her family? How would she feel if she or her partner had a disease that prevented her from having a family and there were very little resources to help them? If you were able to build a family through treatments or adoption, bring a picture of your family and say how you want the same opportunities for other families. If you have resolved your family building and do not have children, share how you overcame your grief and how the key issues you are fighting for today could help patients in the future.
Don’t Go To Extremes
So you are in your meeting, and it is clear that the representative or aide is not receptive to the key issues or your experience with infertility. You have been calm, authentic, emotional and clear. You have respectfully tried reaching them from different angles. While talking about something so personal and so emotional, you may be tempted to start participating in “extreme advocating.”
Extreme advocating may involve ugly crying, shaming, smiting or personally attacking the representative. It also may include throwing things, threatening the representative or having security remove you from the building. Don’t be that advocate. Keep your head up, emit strength and grace and keep your venting, smiting and verbal attacks for when you are out of earshot, safely with your fellow state advocates.
Do Stay on Task and Remind Them What’s at the Heart of The Matter
Advocacy Day is to talk about infertility and the key issues that RESOLVE has carefully pointed to that need attention this year. While we are currently in a politically charged climate where constituents are more aware of many issues that may be extremely important to them, this is not the time or place to talk about climate change, gun control or how you feel about a new tax impacting business in your state. Stay on task as advocating for infertility is incredibly important. You are important. Your story is important. These meetings are our time to change the landscape of infertility legislation.
Keep in mind that infertility is a disease and is not your fault, although we sometimes try and blame ourselves for something that is completely out of our control. Infertility can make us feel powerless. Infertility is still a taboo topic for many and we can sometimes feel silenced and shamed.
On Advocacy Day leave all of those feelings and societal perspectives behind. Be brave and be bold. Be clear. You have a disease and it is not your fault. While some may try and politicize our health issues and treatments for our disease, remember that is not the reality in which we live in every day. It is not the reality for 1 in 8 couples. You are representing your reality and the reality of those who cannot be there to advocate.
Do Thank Them
No matter how the meetings goes, make sure to look your representative or the aide in the eye, shake their hand and thank them for their time and listening to your story. Most likely you will leave with a card of the representative or her aide. RESOLVE will encourage advocates to reach out and thank those you met via email. Advocates for many different causes flock to Washington daily to have these same meetings. These emails are a further way to impart your story and RESOLVE’s key issues. Make sure to follow up, especially if your representative had some hesitations.
Throughout the history of Advocacy Day, while there have been some meetings with representatives that have not gone ideally, most meetings are received positively and politely, even if the representative is not yet ready to support RESOLVE’s legislation efforts. Your presence at Advocacy Day and your willingness to be brave and bold and share your story makes a huge difference, even if your representative is hesitant to support the infertility community. Over the years, many representatives who may not have known about infertility legislation or may not have agreed with it at first, have ultimately supported RESOLVE’s efforts due to hearing the powerful stories of their constituents.
– Casey Berna, LCSWA is a licensed social worker with years of experience as a counselor, advocate, and community organizer. Casey provides counseling to patients suffering from endometriosis and infertility in North Carolina. She runs patient-support groups through her affiliations with RESOLVE and EndoWarriors, and also supports, coaches, and educates patients worldwide through her participation in the online community. Inspired by her own struggle with endometriosis, infertility, and recurrent pregnancy loss, Casey has contributed to these communities for years as a writer and activist. Endotruths: The Impact of Endometriosis and Infertility on Mental Health, debuted at The Unmentionables Film Festival in New York City. She also has been a guest speaker at universities and conferences across the nation. In her spare time, Casey supports and volunteers for non-profits working to improve the lives of patients in these communities.