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Thursday
Dec282017

Five key lessons from 2017 will power our 2018 advocacy!

Lessons learned in 2017 have prepared us for 2018

With the New Year approaching, Raising Women’s Voices and our 30 regional coordinators around the country have been reflecting on our experiences this year on the front lines of advocacy to protect women’s health and LGBTQ health. What have we learned in 2017 that will power our work in 2018?

Lesson 1: Take to the streets! RWV and our regional coordinators kicked off the year by participating in the January 21,  2017,  Women’s March on Washington, as well as sister marches in 10 states (CA, CO, GA, MA, MI, NY, OR, TX, WA, WV) to raise awareness about the importance of women’s health within the larger context of women’s rights. We distributed RWV-branded “We march for women’s health” stickers to be handed out during marches across the country. Coordinators in five states (CA, CO, MI, OR, WV) had speaking roles at their local marches.

During 2017, RWV and our regional coordinators participated in more than 141 visibility actions, conveying pro-ACA messages through street actions like holding up signs at busy intersections, organizing prayer vigils and participating in rallies to defend the coverage gains and protections provided by the ACA.

We’ll be marching again on January 20, 2018, in the second round of Women’s Marches taking place in many cities across the country! Please join us. 

Take a moment now to make a year-end charitable donation to help support the work of Raising Women’s Voices in 2018. Your donation is more tax deductible now than it will be in 2018, because of Trump’s tax bill. You can make a donation online through the Network for Good page of Community Catalyst, a fiscal sponsor for RWV. Earmark your gift for RWV.

Lesson 2: Make it personal. We started by asking women to answer this question for themselves and their families: “What if I lose coverage?” We did this through a national #IfILoseCoverage social media campaign we launched, in collaborationwith the Ms. Foundation for Women. We provided a handy sign template women could print out and fill in with their answer to the question. Then they could take a photo and post it online. RWV regional coordinators gathered more than 125 stories that they were able to use in their state-based advocacy. We used stories to develop social media badges and materials highlighting the potential impact of ACA repeal on women and their families.

Lesson 3: Keep it simple! RWV’s national coordinating team realized we had to figure out how to take wonky federal-level policy discussions and turn them into information that our regional coordinators and their grassroots constituencies would relate to personally and which would spur them to take action in defense of the ACA. We joined national coalitions to help track developments and strategy at a high level. Then, we worked hard with our regional coordinators to develop messaging and campaigns that would reach and mobilize the grassroots. One of our most successful tactics was use of simple cartoon-like graphics like the one shown here to help build understanding. RWV supported 11 regional coordinators in 10 states (CA, CO, GA, IL, KY, LA, MA, NY, OR, TX) to hold 69 informational sessions to help women understand what would be at stake if the ACA were repealed. RWV’s regional coordinators also submitted more than 52 letters to the editor/op-eds and had over 120 press hits during the year.

Lesson 4: Bring it home! In anticipation of Trump administration efforts to roll back the ACA’s contraceptive coverage requirements, six RWV regional coordinators helped win contraceptive coverage protections in their home states (CO, MA, ME, NY, OR, WA).  The Oregon Foundation for Reproductive Health (OFRH) celebrated adoption of the most far-reaching of these policies, the Reproductive Health Equity Act, which requires coverage of the full range of reproductive health related services with no cost-sharing. The new policy covers contraceptives, abortion, screenings for cancer and sexually transmitted infections and prenatal and postpartum care.

During RWV’s annual convening in September, Maria Ignacia of the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), pictured at right, described COLOR’s efforts successfully advocating for the adoption of a state level policy that allows women to pick up a year’s supply of birth control at one time. COLOR helped drum up support for this bipartisan bill through their Latina/o Advocacy Day. Leni Preston of Consumer Health First, RWV’s Maryland-based RC, spoke about their work building momentum for the passage of the Family Planning Services – Continuity of Care Act, the only policy in the country to proactively address the threat to women’s health if the federal government revokes funding under Title X, the national family planning program. Under the new law, $2.7 million in state funding would be put towards establishing a Family Planning Program at the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene if federal support for Planned Parenthood is withdrawn.

Coordinators in ME and MA helped win adoption of contraceptive equity policies that codify and extend the ACA’s birth control benefit. RWV-NY helped win a rule that would require insurance carriers offering health plans in New York’s individual and small group market to cover the ACA’s 10 essential health benefits (EHBs), which include vital services for women, such as maternity care, even if the ACA is repealed or the EHB requirement dropped.  

Regional coordinators in states with hostile political climates and conservative representatives in Washington had to work especially hard to make progress for women in 2017. Marsha Jones (third from left in photo) of the Afiya Center (the RWV coordinator in Dallas) celebrated passage of HB 11: The Texas Moms Matter Act, a piece of legislation to address the maternal mortality crisis in Texas. It will create a Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force within the Department of State Health Services to review cases of pregnancy-related deaths and trends in severe maternal morbidity, which has disproportionately affected Black women.Kwajelyn Jackson, Community Education & Advocacy Manager at Feminist Women’s Health Center (GA), shown at left, highlighted and lifted up the work being done on Black maternal health disparities by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance, as well as the importance of recognizing the racial, gender, environmental and economic factors  that influence maternal health outcomes.

SisterReach, the RWV regional coordinator in Memphis, TN, was active in the fight to save the ACA and Medicaid, co-leading the Save My Care Bus Tour’s Memphis stop, and hosting a “Black Folks on the Hill” day at the Tennessee state capitol in Nashville.   SisterReach provided training, exposure to legislative committee and caucus meetings, and helped their participants meet legislators and staff in six offices. The photo shows SisterReach CEO & Founder Cherisse Scott, staff and volunteers posing with State Representative G.A. Hardaway Sr. during Black Folks on the Hill Day.

Women With A Vision, an RWV coordinator in Louisiana, held RJ roundtables in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Lafayette to discuss health issues important to Black women, including the ACA and Medicaid expansion. Then they took those messages to the state capitol, bringing low income Black women and LGBTQ individuals from across the state to Baton Rouge for an advocacy day focused on Black women’s issues. “Our Voice Our Time:  Black Women’s Advocacy Day” was attended by over 50 women, who met with state legislators and their staff to discuss the impact of Medicaid expansion on women in Louisiana.

On November 7, Maine became the first state in the country to pass Medicaid expansion by referendum. Our regional coordinator, Maine Consumers for Affordable Health Care (CAHC), played an important role in building the massive public support for Medicaid expansion throughout the fall. While not every state allows referenda, RWV will use Maine as a model of policymaker education, advocacy and use of personal stories for achieving these gains in states that have not yet expanded Medicaid.

Lesson 5: Tell the truth. Loudly!  After a tumultuous first nine months of 2017, during which we helped stave off repeal of the ACA and drastic cuts to Medicaid, Raising Women’s Voices and our regional coordinators faced a new challenge as Open Enrollment Period 5 approached.  We realized that many of the women, LGBTQ people and families we serve were confused about whether they would still be able to sign up for health insurance for 2018, and whether there would be any affordable health plans available in their regions of the country.  We knew we had to get the truth out, and do it in a big way! That’s why we launched our truth-telling social media campaign.

RWV developed 111 original OE5 badges to be used on social media to let women know the ACA marketplaces were open – but for only six weeks this year -- that health plans were available and that many people would qualify for free or low-cost health insurance.  During the Open Enrollment Women’s Week of Action, RWV hosted a Twitter chat focused on women’s health, using the hashtag #GetWomenCovered, that had about two million impressions.

Key to the success of our campaign was our active engagement of six of our regional coordinators from southern and southwestern states that were targeted for intensive outreach because of higher-than-average rates of un-insurance: the Feminist Women’s Health Center in Atlanta, the Afiya Center in Dallas, the Lesbian Health initiative/Montrose Center in HoustonWomen with a Vision in New Orleans, Trans Queer Pueblo in Phoenix and the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice in New Mexico. These regional coordinators helped us design materials that effectively targeted African-American, Latinx, immigrant, LGBTQ and low-income women and their families.

 “The fliers and badges were very inclusive and intersectional - in terms of including larger bodied women, diverse populations, interracial couples, queer couples of all ages and different religious expressions,” explained Naushaba Patel,pictured at right, who is Women’s Health Education and Outreach Specialist for theLesbian Health Initiative/Montrose Center in Houston. “Being fully inclusive of all people requires work and trust in others' stories, and I saw that reflected in the RWV staff and I'm grateful for that.”

“I feel great about our results,” said Kwajelyn Jackson from the Feminist Women’s Health Center in Atlanta said. “We really pushed hard in the last two weeks to make a strong showing,” she said, noting that enrollments in Georgia surged in the final two weeks of Open Enrollment, nearly doubling the previous four weeks.  “I’d like to think that our efforts helped make that happen.”

Nationwide, nearly nine million people signed up for 2018 health insurance coverage through the healthcare.gov marketplace, almost as many as last year, but with an open enrollment period that was only half as long, and despite the Trump administration’s cuts to marketplace advertising and funding of navigator agencies. We count that as an especially sweet victory from 2017!

Raising Women’s Voices wishes you and your family a very Happy New Year! Stay tuned to learn about some new directions we will be taking in 2018.

Don’t forget to make a year-end charitable donation to support our work through the Network for Good page of Community Catalyst, a fiscal sponsor. Many thanks for your support!

 

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