Infertility, Infertility Advocacy

154 Advocates. 27 States.

May 11, 2014

Another Advocacy Day has come and gone. And, it was the biggest one yet!  It was a lot of work these last several months to co-chair the event, but it was so worth it. I couldn’t have asked for a better team than RESOLVE, a better co-chair than Jen and a better mentor than Risa.  And, thanks to all of them for giving me the opportunity.

154 Advocates from 27 states attending 160 meetings on the hill.  2300 + letters from all 50 states.

I’m so proud of our team and of every single person who came. I met some really great people.  I regret not being able to spend more time with some and not able to meet others at all. It really was a whirlwind.

My remarks 

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“Today, infertility comes out of the closet. Today, you get to actually do something about your infertility. You will put a face to this disease and educate congress about this healthcare crisis we are all facing. Today we stop being victims of our disease, and start being advocates for our community.

Our work today can’t be an isolated moment in time. It’s going to require some endurance on our part. My step-mother-in-law told me that she didn’t think we’d be having to fight for something like this today, like she was doing back in the 60s/70s. Well, here we are today and it does fall to us to fight for this — let’s make sure it doesn’t fall to the children that we all want so badly.

I want to share a favorite quote by Margaret Mead:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

A silent disease will yield silent results, so it’s going to take ALL of us to speak up! I invite you to find your voice today. You will turn your personal struggle into something more. I’m proud that you are not only here today, but that you guys are also leaders in a grassroots movement of mobilizing your peers to speak up and take action as well. WE ARE BUILDING A MOVEMENT!

For those of you that are feeling overwhelmed with all of the information and think you can’t do this or are nervous…are you kidding? No, what’s hard is what you’re going through, what we’ve all been through…all of those tests, injections, trying to burrow out of your homestudy paperwork, trying to get through beta day, waiting on a adoption match, suffering miscarriages, AND, paying for it all out of pocket…that’s hard. We’ve already done the hard work.

You have real grievances and you have a right to be heard by those representing you in Congress. You are making an impact and bringing this disease to life with your presence here today and your story.

You have an important story to tell, a mostly untold one. So, go do it with your heads held high.”

Showing up is half the battle

RESOLVE decided to make us an appointment with Puerto Rico’s Representative in Congress.  Hey, cool…why not? We were supposed to meet with his aide. We arrived and introduced ourselves with a flurry of Spanish being spoken around us.  This isn’t your typical Congressional office.

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I went in thinking we will ask him to help on the island somehow, we’ll ask him to use his influence with other voting members of Congress, especially the latinos, for our bills.  However, he can do more than we thought.  He can vote in committee, sponsor and co-sponsor; he just can’t vote on the House floor.

The receptionist took us winding through the halls of Rayburn and into Longworth where they had a Judiciary hearing happening.  She set us up in the Judiciary Library to wait for the staffer we were meeting with.

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We’re hanging out admiring the room we are in and then the door opens and it’s Rep. Pedro Pierluisi himself.  He says,

Am I the one you’re looking for?  Is it ok if you meet with me instead?

Uh, yea!

We told him what we were there to talk about and he stopped us and told us he had a heart for this issue. We went over the three bills and he said he supported all of it and would co-sponsor all three.  I hope I had my poker face on, but Erick and I looked at each other and with our eyes said, “Holy crap! Did he just say what I thought he said?”

He wrote on the RESOLVE flyer — “Please add me as a co-sponsor on these three bills.” and signed it.   Then, he interrupted his staffer in the hearing to come out and take a picture of us all three together.  And, he gave him the RESOLVE flyer and instructed him to sign him up to co-sponsor.

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Un-freaking believable.  We left there shocked.  I would love to take credit and say that I gave him an impassioned speech or convinced him with data, but the reality is that WE SHOWED UP and got lucky.  He already cared about the issue.  This is important, but not always enough for some elected officials.

Here’s the key take-away — if we had not come to DC to meet with him, he wouldn’t have co-sponsored these bills. Showing up.  That’s what we did.  I’ll take it.  That’s why we need MORE people to show up!

Sometimes you get lucky, like we did, or sometimes you have to keep coming back and keep talking about it.  Ahem…all of my reps in Virginia.

Our Virginia meetings

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So, my Virginia meetings couldn’t be any more different from our Puerto Rico meeting.  I’ve been meeting with these offices for three or four years.  This time, Senator Warner’s chief of staff sat in on our meeting  because he saw it on the agenda and he cares about these issues.  So, that was a nice surprise and we had a frank conversation about everything.  Senator Warner is vehemently opposed to tax credits right now and wants to see what will happen with the broader tax reform.  Does he care about infertility? I don’t know, but even if he did, he’s not going to support a tax credit right now.  Ok, fair enough.  Disappointing, but not unexpected.

It’s my job to stay on task and not get disappointed and give up.  It’s my job to keep following up and keep the conversation open and determine if there is there anything else he can do to help.  It’s my job to be a resource to him on these issues.

Moving forward

I’m so proud of EVERYONE — those still fighting infertility, those that have resolved, the lobbyists, the doctors, the fertility professionals — that we all came together as a community.  We did good work this week.  We don’t have final numbers or official results quite yet, but we heard of lots of verbal promises to co-sponsor these bills.  We have four Senators and Reps that are supporting all three now.  We made an impact and we’ll keep at it for as long as it takes.

Photos

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View all of my Advocacy Day photos.

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  • Amateur Nester

    SO AWESOME about Rep. Pierluisi. And you’re right that just showing up is a huge part of the battle. Congrats to you and your husband for meeting with him and thank you for all the hard work you put into Advocacy Day!

  • Becky

    LOVE that that happened about Rep. Pierluisi – and agreed about VA – not completely unexpected but I also didn’t feel like we got brushed off which is something at least. Thanks for being such a great co-chair! Can’t wait until next year!