During my time working for a state senator, I was continually amazed by how personal letters, emails, and calls from constituents made such an impact on the office. For some reason, I had assumed that someone in such a position of power would be unable to actually take the time to listen to or care about the opinions expressed in such personal correspondences. In actuality, the personal correspondences were taken very seriously and were the driving force behind what issues were taken up and worked on. I realized legislators actually consider listening to people’s stories and their needs one of the most important things they do because it is those voices that they are working for.
It doesn’t matter if you are just an “everyday” person who has no experience with politics or legislation–your voice has tremendous power in influencing your legislators. But it is up to you to use it. So when you find yourself needing to advocating for infertility treatment benefits, it is important to advocate to your legislators. Legislators need to understand the need for fertility health care benefits and family building legislation to ensure access to treatment for not just you, but all.
Luckily for us, using our voice to advocate to our legislators is actually quite easy. It can be as simple as a letter or phone call from you expressing your story and your needs to make your voice a powerful tool in enacting change. You can even share your story by providing testimony at a committee hearing. Individual stories and correspondence from constituents have a strong effect because it is easy for legislators to relate to them on a personal level. And when more and more people contact their legislators to share their stories regarding a certain issue, the more likely they will be heard and legislation will result in their favor.
Please use Fertility Within Reach’s guide below to explore the many ways you can communicate with your legislator regarding fertility health care benefits and family building legislation.
- Relationships matter. In your opening paragraph, introduce yourself. If you are a constituent, indicate the town or precinct where you live. If you have heard your legislator speak on an issue or met them at an event, remind them of the meeting.
- Be clear about your purpose. Clearly state why you are contacting them. Do you want them to support or oppose a specific bill? If so, provide the specific details (legislation number, date of vote, etc.) and then clearly explain your argument for support / opposition of the legislation.
- Provide evidence. While it is important to get personal, you should always include evidence-based information to support your argument. Provide results of studies, examples from other states, or even testimony from experts in the field.
- Offer your expertise. Legislators cannot be experts on every issue they vote on. They have a support staff to help with research and to understand the needs of their voters. Offer to provide that expertise. It is likely you’ve already gathered much of the research that will help them make their decision. Let them know what you have and how they can reach you if needed.
- Be clear about your purpose. Introduce yourself and whether you are advocating on behalf of any organization or specific issue. State why you are meeting with them. Do you want to inform them of an issue or and ask them to take action on it? Provide specific details about why you are there.
- Get personal. Share your personal experience. Your stories, challenges, and achievements are what make the issue real and memorable to your legislator. If you have pictures or documentation that can support your story, share them.
- Do your homework. Come armed with FACTUAL information that you can share to support your position and bolster your credibility. Plan for follow up. You have already made progress by establishing an in person meeting. Continue to nurture the relationship for future issues. Explain you are available for future discussions. Provide your contact information. Ask for a copy of their business card and ask if it is OK to follow-up within two weeks. Then do it. Legislators and staff can meet with hundreds of people each week on issues across the board. A friendly reminder will help keep your issue at the forefront.
- Follow Up. Immediately after your meeting, send a thank you note. We recommend sending a direct electronic message which will get to your legislators office more quickly –and allow for easy contact.
- Be yourself. It’s best to be yourself. Don’t hold back your emotions. If you break down, that makes the subject more real. You should dress professionally, and business casual is acceptable.
- Be prepared. Bring enough copies of your written testimony to distribute to each committee member. Remember that the legislators are not experts on the topics and you should be prepared to answer follow-up questions. As you prepare your testimony, provide background on the issue.
- Watch the clock. Be prepared to wait to provide your testimony. You won’t know where your bill falls on the agenda. When signing in, you can request to go early and give a very appealing reason why. The hearing room will likely be filled with lobbyists, legislators, and constituents ready to do the same. For the same reason, it is important to keep your testimony to the recommended amount of time. Legislators will appreciate you respecting the process.