Fighting for Your Reproductive Rights | Advocacy Day 2020
What Will Infertility Advocacy Do For YOU?
On a personal level, for everyone reading this, whether it’s infertility or any other topic, one basic thing an advocacy effort can accomplish is to help pass laws. It’s simple, but it doesn’t sound personal or individual, does it? It sounds legislative because, for fertility treatment and advocacy, that’s where legal and lasting change can occur.
Davina Fankhauser, Co-Founder of Fertility Within Reach, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to help people find a way to build their families, says it best, “Being your own best advocate was the first tagline for Fertility Within Reach. Moving from “victim” to “empowered advocate” is good for the body, mind, and soul. It’s contagious in that you will apply using your voice to other areas in your life. You will improve your life and the lives of others.”
What is Advocacy and Who Is it For?
Here’s a great working definition of advocacy: “Advocacy is the public support or recommendation of a particular cause or policy.”
Who’s the public? YOU. Me. All of us. The “public” is made up of all of us, including the 1 in 8 couples affected by the disease of infertility. By putting our voices, signatures, and votes together, we can affect change for each of us, and for everyone else. That change begins with being able to afford fertility treatment.
Who Does an Advocacy Effort Affect? Will It Change Anything For Me?
When a law changes, a new one is written. This new law affects the public and it affects specific people. In this realm, it changes the landscape of fertility treatment in the following ways (note that this list isn't all encompassing):
• Those who have no infertility coverage at all
• Who have such high deductibles that it’s inaccessible financially to seek treatment
• Who have capped insurance coverage
• Who live in a state where there’s no insurance bill (state mandate)
• Who live in states where there’s a limited state mandate
• Who live in states where infertility coverage has specifically excluded fertility treatment
This is just a partial list. It doesn’t begin to cover those who are faced with other fertility threatening diseases. It doesn’t address the discriminatory language and actions that LGBTQ+ persons face when trying to build a family. It doesn’t cover the minimum wage earner who can’t afford the co-pays or medication needed. And so on.
What Was Advocacy Day Like This Year?
RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), once again teamed up for Advocacy Day. Traditionally held in Washington, DC, face to face with legislators. This year there was an advantage not previously had; to engage with legislators remotely. Was it a choice to go remotely? Absolutely not. Were there advantages? Absolutely, yes.
For one thing, it was the first time all 50 states were represented during Advocacy Day. This is historic and worthy of celebration! There were several distinct advantages to advocating remotely- it was efficient, in terms of time, finances and energy. No costs for traveling or hotels. No extra time away from home or jobs. There were also over 400 people last week, talking to legislators about the importance of infertility- a record breaking number of advocates.
Bravo to all those who put in the time and energy last week. It takes courage and conviction to decide to advocate- to share your own story, to say why family building is important, to remind legislators that infertility is a disease, and that no one should have to fight on their own.
Take a look at these amazing RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine volunteers.
And we even received responses from Congresspeople.
What Still Needs to Be Done?
While many legislators have signed on since Advocacy Day last week, many more have not, yet. That’s a big word, yet. Remember, these are pro-family initiatives. They are largely bipartisan bill proposals. For bills to pass, enough Senators and Congresspeople need to sign (co-sponsor) them. This is public information so you can easily see if the legislators who represent your state have signed on. Look this up, then send them a letter to either thank them for co-sponsoring the bills, or to let them know that you want them on board.
Who do the legislators listen to?
Their constituents. The people who elect them. The people who reelect them. YOU. If your legislator hasn’t signed bills that you feel are important, tell them you want them to sign! They won’t know how their constituents feel unless they’re told. You can write something simple, such as, “Here is the name and number of the bill. Please sign.” If you’re feeling like a warrior-tell them to write back to you and tell you why or why not they’re signing the bill. Remember, they work for you, you can ask for an answer.
I have been known to make up to 7 follow up calls with my legislators. And you know what? It works.
Being an Advocate Changes You, For the Better
Returning to the personal
I can tell you what Advocacy has done for me over the past decades. An overused word, but one that fits perfectly- it empowers me. It gives me an opportunity to take all my feelings thoughts and knowledge, and tell people who we elect that they can make a true difference. I’ve seen changes over the years that are remarkable, like the IVF law in New York that gives those that need IVF the appropriate fertility treatment protocols. In New York, building a family has now become a reality. New Hampshire? Same thing! I remember when age discrimination was lifted and what is known as the Connecticut state fertility mandate became accessible to those in their 40s. These changes made a difference for the public, and because of that, for individual people. And because of these changes, families were built, and generations of people celebrated!
One patient who advocated in Connecticut this year shared her thoughts:
“Participating in Advocacy Day was the first time in my infertility journey that I actually felt powerful and strong, completely in control. I was able to take the stress, trauma and grief this process has caused me and turn it into proof of my resilience in a way that could make real, actionable change. I was overcome with emotion writing my (shortened) story. I was putting our struggle into words that people in power would think about when deciding to support pro-family legislation. My story mattered. That simple fact filled me with pride and a sense of empowerment that I never thought was possible. I was on a high for the rest of the week (even though I was exhausted!). Knowing that sharing what I've gone through had the potential to contribute to getting a bill passed that would help so many people in similar situations was an incredible feeling, and one I will hold on to forever.
In a way, I guess I should say "thank you" to my infertility. This awful, painful, emotional, scary thing that has taken over my life didn't have control over me like it had for such a long time. I came out of Advocacy Day feeling like a force of nature, more confident and, consequently, capable of taking on whatever else my journey is going to bring. I also feel even more passionate about advocacy and want to be involved however I can. It goes without saying that while a lot of progress has been made, there is still so much work to be done. If I can do more to make an even bigger impact, then sign me up. I may just be one person, but I know now, without a doubt, that I have the power to make a difference.” Alyson K.
One more inspiring quote about advocacy and affecting change:
“Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world. For indeed that's all who ever have. ” ― Margaret Mead, American Cultural Anthropologist
As always, I welcome you to share your thoughts by leaving a comment below. I also welcome you to reach out to me directly if you are looking for ways to get involved beyond my suggestions above. I'd love to hear from you!
About Lisa Rosenthal
Lisa has over thirty years of experience in the fertility field. After her personal infertility journey, she felt dissatisfied with the lack of comprehensive services available to support her. She was determined to help others undergoing fertility treatment. Lisa has been with RMACT for eleven years and serves as Patient Advocate and the Strategic Content Lead.
Lisa is the teacher and founder of Fertile Yoga, a program designed to support men and women on their quest for their families through gentle movement and meditation.
Lisa’s true passion is supporting patients getting into treatment, being able to stay in treatment and staying whole and complete throughout the process. Lisa is also a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist, which is helpful in her work with fertility patients.
Her experience also includes working with RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association and The American Fertility Association (now Path2Parenthood), where she was Educational Coordinator, Conference Director and Assistant Executive Director.