A blog about how you can best prepare for Advocacy Day and become a strong advocate all year round.
By: Annie Kuo and Kelly Garrity
2018 Advocacy Day Volunteer Training Coordinators
Why Advocacy is Important
Congratulations on your decision to attend Advocacy Day! Whether this is your first or fifth Hill Day, you are in for an empowering day of representation, community, and inspiration. As American citizens, advocacy is an important step in creating the change we want to see in the world. Out of all the advocacy activities one can do, going to the nation’s Capitol to meet personally with lawmakers has the greatest impact. It takes time, travel, and guts — but the impact of showing up and sharing concerns, asking for change, and then leaving behind letters signed by constituents back home is significant!
Advocacy can be a slow process, which requires patience and persistence. But as citizens in our great democracy have seen time and time again, change is possible. Legislators must serve the constituents they represent by hearing and understanding what is important to us. We share our concerns and stories with lawmakers by writing, calling, petitioning, and meeting with them. To work effectively with those in power, we should also listen to the limitations and constraints that those in power face.
We are thrilled to once again participate on the planning committee for Advocacy Day and revive our training roles. We’ll be starting with weekly content on the blog. Later, RESOLVE will roll out a webinar and training call.
What We've Learned About Advocacy
To begin, here’s a little about how we got involved in Advocacy Day and what we’ve learned about the advocacy process.
In 2015, I was following RESOLVE on Facebook, while undergoing repeated, and ultimately unsuccessful, treatment for fertility preservation. When an Advocacy Day video popped up, I was inspired and instantly curious. How many people from Washington State were advocating for the infertility community? I picked up the phone and called RESOLVE, then committed on the spot to attend. “Lobbying Congress” had always been on my bucket list, but I just needed the cause to be passionate about. I was frustrated by the roadblocks I kept facing in treatment and needed to channel my energy and frustration into something productive.
What better avenue than getting involved in legislative advocacy (and soon after, support groups)? Advocacy Day is one big day out of the year where influencers, activists, and passionate everyday citizens came together to make an impact. If I wanted to be part of creating change, Washington, DC on Advocacy Day was one of the best places to be. I am always touched by my fellow advocates’ courage and spirit of action on Advocacy Day. When we show up on the Hill, we are the voice of everyone in our state and city with infertility. It is humbling and empowering, one I regard with great responsibility and honor. Here’s a personal video greeting I made last year about why I continue to advocate for RESOLVE.
May 23, 2018, will be my fourth Advocacy Day… I am proud to say that Washington State’s fertility score — as assigned by RESOLVE — has improved from a D to a B in the past three years, and am looking forward now to working toward an A — the biggest leap, for sure, which will take a village.
Like many in Washington, DC, my day job involves advocacy and fundraising – while my many side interests include working with RESOLVE, teaching figure skating, running, and enjoying a feisty 3-year-old daughter.
My infertility journey began in early 2012 when I experienced the first of three successive miscarriages. Getting pregnant was never our issue, but staying pregnant was and in 2013 we started the IVF process and were blessed to become pregnant with our daughter in 2014. We pursued another round of IVF in 2017 and were lucky enough to get pregnant with our little boy, Connor James, who was sadly born sleeping at 35 weeks in 2018.
I attended my first Advocacy Day in 2013 and have never looked back. The Metro ride to that first breakfast was one filled with butterflies of nervousness, tears of worry, and a giddiness about meeting so many others who had walked the infertility journey. I was amazed by the people I met, their ability to talk and share so openly about what we have all gone through, and the change that we were able to make that year. It has driven me to come back every year since and get more involved with RESOLVE.
Thank you all for advocating with us!
Check out our Create Change posts from Advocacy Day 2017.
-Annie & Kelly
Your Story Helps Legislation Get Passed
YOU are key to putting a face on the issues. It’s often the stories — not the policy briefings — which inspire lawmakers to act. Lawmakers want to
hear from constituents with the power to vote. Your story helps legislation get passed. The more involved we all get, the greater impact we have as a community.
Through the years, participants at Advocacy Day have helped to shape legislation, sway opinions, and create meaningful change.
- In 2017, RESOLVE advocates were able to save the Adoption Tax Credit from elimination or modification during the tax reform legislative process.
- In 2017, RESOLVE advocates helped vocalize that personhood legislation would have the unintended effect of limiting access to family-building options. We educated lawmakers that if they passed bills on personhood, it would prevent doctors from practicing IVF in accord with the best standards of medical care. To date, personhood legislation has not passed.
- In 2016, RESOLVE advocates helped secure passage of an amendment allowing the Veterans Administration to offer IVF and/or adoption assistance to veterans with a service-related injury causing infertility.
Advocacy is not just about Americans gaining new access and coverage to treatments. It’s also about protecting legislation that may have unintended consequences on our ability to seek treatment. It also supports, protects, and encourages other ways Americans can build families, such as adoption. We can’t wait for you to join us this year and flip the script to ensure they get it right.
-Annie & Kelly
Advocacy Day is focused on federal advocacy efforts, but it’s important that we monitor family-building legislation on the state level as well.
Every state and local government has its own unique set of circumstances that affect policy proposals. As the constituent who can best articulate your local situation, YOU are the key to enacting change. It doesn’t stop with Advocacy Day. Advocacy can continue any day, in fact, many days of the year.
On the state level, family-building advocates have been very successful in increasing access to family-building options and fighting against legislation with unintended consequences for the infertility community.
- Washington State became the first state to enact UPA 2017, the updated Uniform Parentage Act for use by other U.S. states as uniform legislation for parentage laws. The law, signed by Governor Inslee in March, is now current with social, legal, and medical advances, and ends the state’s ban on compensated surrogacy.
- In the last 5 years, several states have passed legislation increasing health coverage for infertility.
- New Jersey expanded coverage to include single women and women in same-sex relationships while reducing waiting periods.
- Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New York have all passed bills covering fertility preservation caused by medical treatment, such as chemotherapy.
- Over the last few years, our community has protected access to family-building options by ensuring that bills including “personhood” have not passed. Such legislation could prevent doctors from practicing IVF in accord with the best standards of medical care. For background on personhood legislation, click here.
For more about state advocacy wins, click here.
Flipping the script can happen all year long, including at your local level where change is felt much more intimately. You can apply many of the same tools we use for federal advocacy when you address your local lawmakers.
-Annie & Kelly
Google to the Rescue
Google is your best friend!
Here are some things that you could consider finding out about your representatives.
- Current hometown
- Political party
- Military background, if any
- Spouse occupation
- House of worship
- Career field
- Top campaign donor
- How long have they been in office?
- Did they serve in state/local office first?
- What are their top 3 issues and why?
- What organizations are prominent in their community?
- Do you know large employers in their area? Are you friends with any employees of them?
- What figures in their community might be influential to them?
-Annie & Kelly
Make it Personal
In 2016 and 2017, our Advocacy Day community was addressed by two Members of Congress (MOCs) with empathy and understanding for Americans struggling to build families. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill) — who recently became the first sitting US Senator to give birth — and former House Rep. Timothy Walz (D-Minn) are members of the infertility community.
As they shared their personal stories and encouragement, two things became clear — stories matter and we should remember that both advocates and legislators are human. Legislators are not just Members of Congress — they are parents, siblings, friends, volunteers, etc.
We can have a successful fly-in by incorporating a personal approach with preparation and practice.
A simple tweet that says “ Looking forward to seeing you on May 23 when I fly in for Infertility Advocacy Day” can go a long way in showing respect for your Members of Congress and their time.
Who are you meeting with?
If you are unsure who your exact representatives are you can find them by clicking here and entering your zip code. The results will list your House Representative and State Senators.
Find out more.
Once you know who represents you, it’s time to dig deeper. Using this website, you can search the name of each lawmaker and find more details about them: what committees they are on, areas they are likely to sponsor, and their voting record. Also, it’s good to know what your lawmaker looks like in case they pass you in the hallway!
Using Google or your favorite search engine to get to know your elected official. You can reference this sheet for ideas.
Keep track of the information.
Lee Rubin, RESOLVE board member and mentor to our advocate community, created a great tracking sheet just for this purpose. The 4-point worksheet has lines to keep track of some of these details as well as other information to look up.
Optimize the best stories
You will have the chance to pool stories with your state delegation as part of the morning training. If you have the chance to do so, you may even share stories in closed social media groups/webinars throughout the year in preparation for fly-ins. Consider which stories will have the most impact in the rare time you have with legislators.
Have fun getting ready!
– Annie & Kelly
Crafting Your Elevator Pitch
At both the opening reception and morning training, you will have the chance to share stories with your state delegation. Each one of you has walked a different path on your way to becoming an advocate – the details make up YOUR STORY.
Sharing your story with lawmakers will be an option on Advocacy Day for one or two of you from each state and district. It is a good idea to come prepared with your “elevator pitch” so that it can be easily decided which stories will be shared with your lawmaker. Also, this will make getting to know other advocates easy, speedy, and fun!
Reflection and intentionality are so important. The power of storytelling lies in who tells the story, what stories are told, and what stories aren’t told. It’s also important how these stories are told.
Here is our walk-through of the 5 W’s to structure your Elevator Pitch Worksheet.
For “extra credit” on crafting your message, check out this messaging worksheet. These are optional, supplemental worksheets shared with permission from the creator, Allison Mountjoy in Seattle. Annie recently attended Allison’s workshop on Authentic Communication for Non-profits and Organizers. You may find these worksheets helpful while crafting your message around the issues, which we will roll out in our next blog post.
Here are our elevator pitches as examples:
I’m from Shoreline, Washington. I got my infertility diagnosis 7 years ago before my only child was born. I later pursued fertility treatment multiple times but had to stop due to the financial and emotional burden. My efforts were not fruitful due to biological limits (in my case, a family history of early menopause). Since then I have explored other ways to build a family and become an infertility support group leader in Seattle. I get to know hundreds of patients. To afford treatment or adoption, many take out second mortgages, bank loans, and borrow from friends and family, sometimes spending the amount of a college fund before a child is even born. There is often not a quick fix to infertility – IVF, for example, should be viewed as a course, with no guarantees of success. Often, it must be repeated, and the financial burden accumulates for Americans who simply want to have a family. The ideal situation is to support the many ways families can be built and provide full access to care.
I’m from Arlington, Virginia and have been in the area more than a decade. I have been diagnosed with infertility for 6 years and in that time suffered 3 miscarriages and 1 stillbirth. With my history, I was advised to go directly to IVF with genetic testing. One cycle with meds involves countless blood draws, stomach and muscular shots, and a cost upward of $8,000 – often not covered by insurance. At a minimum, infertility affects 1 in 8 people. Think about all of the people in your life – you know at least one person with infertility.
This video from Rare Disease Week also has a great background on your two-minute story.
Your stories matter. They often are what inspire lawmakers to act. Go get’em.
Annie & Kelly
Legislative Lingo You Might Hear
We know how overwhelming this process can be. There is a lot to take in prior to meeting your lawmakers and tracking our advocacy’s effects on legislation. Here is some background on legislative terms you might hear in the context of your meetings.
What is the difference between the House and the Senate?
House of Representatives and Senate are the two legislative bodies that write, debate, and pass federal laws. Every citizen has one House Representative and two U.S. Senators. On Advocacy Day, we will be talking to our House Representative and our two Senators about federal bills and policies that affect the infertility community.
What are the differences between a House bill and a Senate bill?
Bills are laws that are proposed by a member of Congress and are either “introduced” or “filed” either in the House of Representatives or in the Senate.
- House bills are designated “H.R.”
- Senate bills are designated “S.”
What is a CBO Score and what does the “score” of a bill mean?
In your meetings, you may be asked the score or CBO score of the particular bill. Bills in most Congressional committees are assigned estimates (“scores”) of what they will cost the federal government by the Congressional Budget Office, or CBO.
Currently, none of our bills have been scored. However, this opens the door to say we can follow up once it has. Finally, they can absolutely co-sponsor and even vote on bills that have not been scored, so don’t take that as a final answer. Remember, we are talking about BUILDING FAMILIES — everyone should be for that!
What is a sponsor or co-sponsor?
A sponsor in the United States Congress is the first member of the House or Senate who introduces a bill for consideration.
A “co-sponsor” adds his or her name as a supporter to the sponsor’s bill. This is why our work on Advocacy Day is so important— if there are many co-sponsors, this indicates a bill with a lot of support.
If your member has not signed on to legislation that we support, you can encourage them to reach out to the bill’s sponsor. If you use the 4-point “Spy” worksheet, you can fill in the blanks on our bills and write down if your legislators are co-sponsors or not. If they are a co-sponsor already, THANK THEM! These offices never hear thanks, so please do that!
Why are Committees important to our bills?
This is the next big step. A group of members of Congress will be the ones who make the initial decisions about a bill. Once a bill is introduced, it is assigned to the appropriate committee for consideration. There will usually be a House Committee for House bills and a Senate Committee for Senate bills.
This year, the Women Veterans and Families Health Services Act is in the Senate and House Committees on Veterans Affairs.
This year, the Adoption Tax Credit Refundability Act is in the Senate Finance and the House Ways and Means Committees.
This year, the NIH’s National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD Appropriations is in the House and Senate Appropriations Committees.
The PCOS resolution passed the Senate in December 2017. The same Resolution has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. David Scott (GA).
This is why that “Spy Sheet” is super important. You can sleuth to find out if you have a rep that is on a committee of one of the bills we are advocating for.
-Annie & Kelly
Our 2018 Advocacy Day Issues
The 2018 issues have been established! On Advocacy Day, we will be making these requests of Congress:
- Make IVF and adoption support permanent through the VA for veterans with service-related injuries affecting their ability to build a family — support Women Veterans & Families Health Services Act (S 700/HR 1681)
- Make the adoption tax credit refundable – this helps those with lower financial resources get the benefit of the credit so they can afford to adopt a child in need (most through the foster care system) — support the Adoption Tax Credit Refundability Act of 2017 (S 937/HR 2476)
- Pass the resolution that federally recognizes PCOS Awareness Month — this resolution passed in the Senate, so we are asking the House to support (PCOS Resolution, H. Res 864)
- Request $1.5B for FY19 for the NIH, specifically the National Institutes of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD), particular funding for research related to reproductive disorders such as infertility, PCOS, and endometriosis
RESOLVE will be hosting webinars for professionals and advocates for Advocacy Day 2018. Make sure you are registered, join the live calls, or listen to the recordings.
Check out these handouts that go into detail about the issues: The Issues in a Nutshell – House Of Representatives and The Issues in a Nutshell – Senate The handouts are dense, so take time to digest the specifics before Advocacy Day. There are a few blanks for you to fill in on the handout. Use the information you’ve gathered on the 4-point “Spy” worksheet, mentioned in the previous Legislative Lingo post.
-Annie & Kelly
If you aren’t able to join the live webinar sessions, make sure that you register or listen to the recordings. We know there is a lot of information to digest and hope multiple formats help make it easy to understand.
On May 23, each meeting with your Member of Congress (MOC) and/or their staffer(s) will be about 15 minutes long. We want to make sure to thank EVERY office for two direct wins and one related win:
1) Congress saved the Adoption Tax Credit (ATC), 2) Congress appropriated money for veterans to receive IVF coverage, and 3) Congress increased appropriations for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Although we are grateful for the wins, there is still work to do on these and two brand new issues this year:
- Further improve the ATC by offering refundability to lower-income families who adopt, typically out of the foster system. We hope that lower-income families can benefit from the credit and be able to afford adopting a child in need.
- Ensure continued, hopefully permanent, appropriation for IVF for veterans. The current appropriation funding only lasts through September 2019.
- Increase funding for NIH research, specifically $1.5B to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). The funding would support research related to reproductive health disorders such as infertility, PCOS, and endometriosis.
- Ask our House representatives to federally recognize Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) Awareness Month. This resolution to designate September as PCOS Awareness Month has already passed in the US Senate, so we will be asking for co-sponsors from the House. This is not a bill, but a way to highlight issues we care about and raise awareness in our communities.
Make sure to preview the Day of Advocacy Day Materials. You can now read the issues in a Nutshell document for both the Senate and the House.
Our next blog post will address what to expect in your meeting. Thanks for reading along!
-Annie & Kelly
Practice Makes Perfect - Role Play Meeting Webinar & Videos
We’ve created this 5-minute webinar with a quick training review and up-to-date information about Advocacy Day. Please take time to check it out before you arrive on the Hill.
Due to a new legislative item for which we will receive a morning briefing, training time will be limited at the podium. We realize that role-play is important, so we encourage you to check out these role-play videos of a Congressional appointment.
Thanks so much for your hard work preparing for this important day.
Safe travels, everyone!
– Annie & Kelly
The Follow Up
What an amazing Advocacy Day! It was wonderful to be in the room with you all when the Access to Infertility Treatment and Care Act was announced and to be part of history introducing the bill to our members of Congress.
We hope the experience of advocating in DC for the infertility community has inspired you to keep taking action! Follow-up is an important strategy for getting and keeping traction on issues.
If you have not already sent a thank you email, RESOLVE has a template letter you may use or make your own. For the larger groups (5 or more advocates in a meeting), we highly recommend that one person is designated to send the thank you note on behalf of everyone and list the names of all the advocates.
Here are more tips on how to stay on top of issues and your lawmakers:
- Connect to the Advocacy Day attendees group on Facebook. This page is a great way to tap into the spirit of our advocate community and stay updated on the latest news and legislative action steps.
- Look up Town Hall schedules and add them to personal calendars. Town Hall Project is a great site to bookmark and refer to throughout the year.
- Follow your lawmakers on social media channels if you haven’t yet. Places to check include Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. Simply do a search by your lawmaker’s name.
- Follow proposed legislation on congress.gov. You can track co-sponsors by searching the bill or resolution number.
For Advocacy Day 2018, these were:
Access to Infertility Treatment and Care Act
Senate: S 2960, House: H.R. 5965
Women Veterans and Families Health Services:
Senate: S 700, House: H.R. 1681
Adoption Tax Credit Refundability Act:
Senate: S 937, House: H.R. 2476
House Resolution, PCOS Awareness Month:
House Res.: 864
Medical Research Funding, FY 2019 Appropriations
- When your lawmakers take pertinent action like co-sponsoring a bill or signing on to legislation that RESOLVE supports, send a thank you via social media and/or e-mail.
- Invite your lawmaker and their staff to any infertility community events such as walk of hope for their education and exposure to our issues.
- Follow-up each quarter to your lawmaker’s DC office when there is something to talk about. Set up a calendar alert to remind you.
- Identify local legislative offices to connect to and request a quarterly meeting with lawmaker or staff on their visits home. You can also attend town halls. This step is for the go-getters!
We hope these ideas will keep you busy and engaged on the issues between now and the next Advocacy Day. Together, we are creating the change we want to see in the world.
All the best,
Annie & Kelly