Our Voice is Our Super Power
Posted by: Rebecca Flick at February 28, 2012
Category: Infertility Advocacy
On February 22nd, I left my home in Leesburg, Virginia to travel about 2 ½ hours south to our state capital of Richmond to help coordinate RESOLVE’s testimony before the Committee on Health and Education about the impact on HB 1, Virginia’s Personhood Bill.
As I left, my 4 year old son, (I’m a parent thanks to IVF) asked me where I was going. I told him “Mommy is going to fight some bad guys.” (Of course I know that the people behind the Personhood bill aren’t “bad guys”, but I was trying to put this in perspective for a 4 year old.)
His response: “What are your Super Powers?”
“The Truth and My Voice” I replied.
Along with several brave volunteers, a RESOLVE board member, and a colleague here at RESOLVE, we met in Richmond to make sure the voice of the infertility community was heard loud and clear: HB 1 is anti-family and would endanger the practice of IVF in Virginia.
I’m sure if you’re reading this, you’ve followed what has unfolded in Virginia around HB 1 Let’s just say that the Personhood bill created such a wild debate that Virginia became the brunt of many late-night talk show jokes.
When we arrived at the General Assembly building almost 90 minutes before the hearing started we noticed a sizeable crowd had already gathered. There were more than 100 people from other organizations that you would expect to see at a hearing covering controversial bills like HB 1. And then there was RESOLVE. There were patients ready to share their stories, physicians and lab directors ready to testify to the science of IVF, and other members of the RESOLVE community who came to share their opposition; there were maybe 15 of us total.
|RESOLVE Staff and Supporters at the Hearing Photo by Whitney Anderson|
While I would have loved to tell you that hundreds of people with infertility showed up, the truth is in this particular situation, our power was not in our numbers, but in what we had to say. Also, RESOLVE does not have a government affairs or advocacy department. We rely on our Executive Director to lead our efforts with a team of very dedicated volunteers. Me, well I’m the gal who helps plan National Infertility Awareness Week, the Night of Hope, and I handle the web site and marketing. Leading a major grassroots advocacy effort was a new item on my “to do list”.
The hearing began and when it was time to hear HB 1 the rules were made very clear. Each side would have 8 minutes to present their reasons for support or opposition of HB 1. There were 15 people lined up in opposition of the bill and 8 lined up in support.
This is where all the work leading up to this moment helped. Virginia residents sent more than 1,700 emails to their Delegates and Senators, made hundreds of phone calls to voice their opinion, and RESOLVE made sure that every Senator (especially those on the Committee) received an official letter with the reasons why HB 1 is anti-family.
Jane Castanias, Virginia resident and Vice Chair for the RESOLVE Board of Directors, was first in line to present why HB 1 was bad for the infertility community. The night before the hearing we wrote and re-wrote her remarks making sure that we presented the facts that had been researched by a team of reproductive law attorneys, doctors, and other experts, all while trying to keep those remarks under two minutes. (Not an easy task!)
Jane read the RESOLVE statement which pointed out that under Section 7 of HB 1, a section of the bill that appears to “protect” the treatment of infertility, the section actually DOES NOT protect IVF or people with infertility from any liability if something happens to embryos created through assisted reproductive technologies.
|Whitney Anderson Testifying at the Hearing. Photo by Whitney Anderson|
Next up was Whitney Anderson , infertility patient and blogger. Whitney bravely shared her story with everyone in that room and ordered each Senator to remember her when they voted on this bill.
Several doctors, including two reproductive endocrinologists, provided testimony on exactly how HB 1 would impact the practice of IVF and reminded the Committee that the first successful IVF cycle in the U.S. was performed right here in Virginia (nothing like a little state pride to get an elected official going.)
Once the 8 minutes were up, the Committee asked a few questions which those in support of the bill were allowed to address. The bill supporters kept stating that IVF was protected, yet offered no experts in the field of reproductive endocrinology to back up their claims.
There was more debate between the Senators on the committee, definitely proving that our testimony was providing reasonable doubt. The Committee chair allowed the rest of those who wanted to voice their support and opposition to simply approach the microphone, say their name, organization affiliation, and that they “support or oppose” the bill. Once that was done they called for a final vote.
I was trying to count on each hand the “yays and nays”, but it moved too quickly. An infertility patient there to share her story (but never given the chance) watched as tears streamed down her face. The final vote 8-7—HB 1 was moving on to the Senate for a full vote.
I headed back north and held a conference call with our advocacy volunteers about our next steps. We had a plan and we hoped the infertility community in Virginia was ready to continue the fight.
As I turned back down my street, less than 24 hours after I had originally left, I was on the phone with RESOLVE’s Board Chair as she watched a special vote unfold in the full Senate that sent HB 1 back to committee as the bill needed further investigation. This meant the bill was “frozen”….it would not be voted in on this General Assembly. Wait, did this just happen?
I sat in my car, stunned and exhausted. I even began to cry. I took a moment, wiped away the tears, and walked through the front door ready to tell Robbie that “Mommy won”; our super powers prevailed.
As I tried to fall asleep that night I couldn’t help but be proud of what this organization accomplished in the past two weeks. But then I became overwhelmed again, tears of joy and this time mixed with tears of the unknown. Could HB 1 resurface this year? What about the other states with Personhood bills or initiatives? How would we fight them all without a dedicated advocacy department and the budget to support what is needed? And would the patients – current and former – rise up and speak out in all these other states? I hope you know that I will continue the fight, and I know the doctors will too. I hope you join this fight and help us ensure we are there, in force, to fight each one of these anti-family bills.
Rebecca Flick is the Director of Strategic Partnerships and Projects at RESOLVE: The National Infertility Assocation. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.