A statement that has always stuck with many of us advocates who were here (at Advocacy Day) in 2014 is that “today, somewhere, someone is going to be diagnosed with the disease of infertility.” We’re here not just for ourselves, but for them. Many of us can conjure up that feeling of loss and devastation, and many in this room are here because they want to prevent that for others. When I think about who I’m here for, it’s not just me. – Brooke Kingston, RESOLVE Ambassador and 2019 Advocacy Day Chair
Brooke is right. It’s not just her. This is an “us” movement.
Let’s first begin with why we advocate.
Having a family is fundamental to the lives of many American women and men. Being diagnosed with infertility or experiencing barriers in building that dream, can be both life altering and devastating. Since both men and women are equally impacted by this disease- as recognized by the World Health Organization and the American Medical Association, millions of people suffer each day physically, emotionally, and financially. We advocate because:
- COST IS A KEY BARRIER to both adoption and to medical treatment for infertility (since 75% of private insurance policies don’t cover it).
- Nearly 433,000 children are in foster care, and 123,437 are waiting to be adopted.
- 67% report to spending $10,000 or more to build their families.
It is RESOLVE’s mission to change the stats, but this is something that cannot be done alone. This is why Advocacy Day is so important. Our advocacy partnership initiatives with ASRM (The American Society of Reproductive Medicine made this year’s Advocacy Day that much stronger with an increased presence of both patients AND professionals, unifying their voices and personal ties to infertility.
This year was by far our largest turnout to date, with an attendance of 233 passionate advocates. Together, in a collaborative effort, we were able to share with our congressional leaders the commonality of barriers that impact how people can build families.
There is something magical about becoming a first time advocate, and since there was a record amount of new advocates that joined us this year, we hosted our first new advocate training the day ahead of Advocacy Day. For the returning advocates and Advocacy Day committee that facilitated the training, the highlight was watching these first time advocates learn, become inspired, and transition from being nervous about the day ahead to becoming confident in telling their story and why their lawmakers should care about our issues.
Advocacy Day began at 7:30 am sharp. It was a noisy room, filled with excited chatter and the clinking of forks against breakfast filled plates. A room full of advocates leaned in intently, while RESOLVE, ASRM, and the Advocacy Day committee volunteers started talking through the brass tacks of the day ahead. A major focus of the morning training is talking through the core issues that we will be asking our Members of Congress for their support/sponsorship on. Here’s the legislation:
- Co-Sponsor Access to Infertility Treatment and Care Act, S 1461 and HR 2803
- Co-Sponsor Women Veterans and Families Health Services Act S 319 and HR 955
- Co-Sponsor Every Child Deserves a Family Act, HR 3114
- Co-Sponsor PCOS Awareness Month Resolution, H Res 146
- Medical Research Funding, FY 2020 Appropriations
For a full description of these issues check out the details here.
The room became suddenly quiet. A women with a gentle, yet, fiery voice took the podium. It was Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz. She started off with talking about her own personal struggle with infertility. She lamented “infertility is a disease! Yet, treatment and options are out of reach for many Americans.” We agree. But the thing is, it’s not just her that can change the current status quo for us, we have to agitate and advocate for any form of change to happen.
After the training was over, all 233 advocates, ASRM and RESOLVE staff members descended upon Capitol Hill in their own state specific delegations. Advocates met with over 175+ offices including the Senate and House Appropriations and the Senate Veteran Affairs committee. They also helped bring along with them the voices of constituents that could not make it to Washington, D.C. that day. An astounding 4,200 constituent letters were hand delivered to Members of Congress on their behalf.
The thing about advocacy is that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. The conversations we had, and that our advocates had, must continue in order for any changes to take place.
So, what next?
We follow up, we agitate, and we continue to educate our lawmakers throughout the year. Here are a few ways we can stay persistent in making sure we are heard:
- Follow and keep up to date with our issues and legislation on congress.gov. You can even track the co-sponsors by searching the bill or resolution number.
- If you are active on social media, consider following your lawmakers on their social media channel. By simply searching by your lawmaker’s name, you can find their handles on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. Be sure to thank the ones who are supporting our issues too!
- Consider attending local Town Halls hosted by your lawmakers. Town Hall Project is a great site to use as a resource throughout the year.
In sum, we came, we advocated, but our work doesn’t end here. Meeting with our lawmakers is step one, but now we must continue to fight and raise awareness so that this is recognized and fought for by the majority, not just the people who are personally impacted by this disease. We continue the passion driven conversations that were had with our lawmakers on Capitol Hill to ensure that it’s not just me, but for the future me.