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Pro-Choice Lobby Day: Lobby 101 Session, Starting the Conversation (On Abortion)

I was lucky enough to attend the annual Pro-Choice Lobby Day  at the State Capitol. Various organizations such as NARAL, National Coalition of Jewish Women, and Nursing Students for Choice has information booths as well as speakers to start off the day and then we broke into Lobby 101 sessions. The available sessions were Faith-Based, Starting Conversations, and Inequity/Access, of which I chose to attend Starting Conversations.

I’m happy to report that this session had a turnout of around 25, a handful of those being male. We began the session with Kathleen Murphy, who has been a lobbyist for Pro-Choice issues for years. She began the session by informing us on how to approach our legislators and how to lobby properly. She distributed a handout with eleven tips for successful lobbying:

1. Don’t be intimidated by elected officials.
2. Identify yourself and your organization.
3. Be concise.
4. Use all available resources.
5. Be honest.
6. Identify bill or issue clearly.
7. Keep things friendly.
8. Listen.
9. Avoid party politics.
10. Don’t threaten.
11. Be flexible.

So, basically, she recommends knowing your topic and opinion but it is as equally important to know your legislator! She recommends helping during campaign sessions or forums so they get to know your name. She believes that (civid) engagement is most rewarding because we can build trust and have our say! Which segways nicely into starting the conversation (with legislation and really anyone) on abortion and pro-choice ideals.

We had two speakers help us with the usual questions on-the-fence or “pro-life” people might ask when the topic of abortion comes up.

Does life begin at conception? To quote President Obama, “That is above my pay grade.” Basically, this is completely perceptional. Religion and morals definitely influence the answer to this question and because there are a variety of answers to this question there should not be one answer/religion/or group of people that determine it for the rest of us. Our first amendment claims that your religion cannot tell me what I can do with my body. End of story! Separation of Church and State! Also, the idea of a fetus having the potential to reach personhood is a lacking argument. A ten year old child has the potential to reach the age of 21, but we do not grant 10 year olds drinking rights based on that assumption.

Is abortion (Black) genocide? First of all, for those unfamiliar, this is the idea that in the past and probably still true in some areas, African American women have been forced or pressured into abortions, to decrease the amount of African Americans in general. Although this is true in our history and can be true in places, abortion itself is not meant to used as a way to eliminate a group of people, therefore abortion itself is not a genocide.

Why should my tax money fund abortions? Actually, in the 1970s an amendment passed, the Hyde Amendment, stating that federal funds (your tax dollars) cannot be used to pay for abortions, with the exception in cases of incest and rape. However unfortunate this is for women, it appears to be good for your tax dollars! Also on that note, we all pay taxes for services and things that we either don’t use or agree with. That just happens to be how things work in the United States. Also, people have a problem with Obamacare and the idea of no-cost birth control. On that same note, people do not like paying taxes towards welfare programs. No-cost birth control and sexual education are most definitely a ways to decrease costs of welfare programs. It is good to find common ground: want to reduce abortions? So do we, so make birth control resources and education more accessible!

Aren’t there health risks? Breast cancer? Depression/Suicide?Infertility? No. It is just not true. Even the American Cancer Association, as well as additional research from similar organizations, refute these claims. One thing that people making these claims don’t realize is that although we are all entitled to our own opinions, we are not entitled to our own facts.

As for starting this conversation with men…don’t lose your cool! Explain how these issues effect them as much as women. Explain how condoms and other forms of birth control are their friend. Put it into perspective that one in three women get abortions. Put it into perspective that really men are only losing the idea of a child, whereas forcing a woman to carry a child to term is a lot more real than a mere idea. And even for men who are not against abortion, they need to show it! They need to support women and legislation. On that same note, they need to know when to stand aside. If you aren’t the one with a uterus… :-)

As for people concerned with late-term abortions...It just doesn’t really happen. Less than half of a percent of abortions occur during the third trimester and of those half a percent, it legally has to be because of a health risk. Less than 2% of abortions happen after twenty weeks because women who want abortions don’t want to be pregnant!

And lastly, some things to finish off starting these conversations…

Abortion is healthcare. And everyone has the fundamental human right to affordable healthcare, regardless of others beliefs and opinions.

Acknowledge that this is a very sensitive topic. Do not over-justify your side of the issue. Simply plant the seed so they can reflect on it later.

If you can, provide personal stories. These are proven to be effective in swaying. Every decision has a story; every woman has a story.

And of course, explain how abortion will always be present whether it’s legal or not. The only difference is if it is illegal, women will be dying.

Pro-Choice Lobby Day was extremely empowering and helpful to me. And I hope this post is helpful to you all, too!

 

 

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