This past weekend, 350 activists stormed D.C. for the weekend to speak out against Trump’s Global Gag Rule, and to urge their elected officials to support the Global HER Act and a $1.2 billion U.S. investment in international family planning — including $70 million for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
Student activists and Population Connection members and supporters from thirty states and D.C. gathered for a weekend of learning about the impact of U.S. policy on real lives abroad and the international effort to ameliorate the damage of the Gag Rule, and to defend the reproductive rights of individuals around the world.
Advocates also engaged in discussions about reproductive justice and effective storytelling, and learned tangible skills about how to effectively engage with our #Fight4HER campaign and to plan attention grabbing grassroots events and actions.
The weekend kicked off with the presentation of the fourth annual “Empower Her, Empower Humanity” award, presented to Congresswoman Jacky Rosen of the 3rd district of Nevada. In her relatively short time in Congress, Rep. Rosen has proven to be a fierce voice for women and their reproductive rights.
One of the many highlights of the weekend was hearing from Dr. Tlaleng Mofokeng — better known as “Dr. T.” An abortion doctor and reproductive justice advocate from Johannesburg, South Africa, Dr. T rousingly inspired the crowd to use their voices to speak up for social, reproductive, and economic justice. She also urged participants to trust black women, who’ve been organizing and standing up to oppression for a very long time, and who are the backbone of the current resistance to Donald Trump.
At the lobby day following the weekend, student and veteran advocates swarmed the Capitol, meeting with their Senate and House offices. For our large contingents from Arizona, North Carolina, and Ohio, constituents stood for meetings in hallways and gathered in special reserved meeting spaces to accommodate the huge numbers of activists eager to speak to their legislators.
A highlight of the day was when a young Pittsburgh advocate bravely hosted a “meeting” with a cardboard cutout of Congressman Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania after he refused to meet with her. She asked him loudly and clearly to support the #Fight4HER, and the millions of individuals abroad whose lives depend on repealing Trump’s Global Gag Rule.
Armed with resources about how best to #Fight4HER, we’re looking forward to this tremendous group of activists leading the #Fight4HER through the remainder of 2018 and beyond.
CHD 2017 Photos
CHD 2017 Media Coverage
Shoe-leather lobbying: Students in D.C. learn how to press an issue — Cronkite News, Arizona PBS
#Fight4Her continues efforts for Global HER Act in nation’s capital — The New Hampshire
Past Participant Profiles
Each year, hundreds of reproductive rights and justice activists, both new and seasoned, join us for Capitol Hill Days. They are passionate about promoting women’s rights around the world and eager for the tools to work for effective change at the grassroots level. We’re inspired by their knowledge, energy, and enthusiasm each year. Below are profiles of just a few of this year’s attendees.
Sydney Rasch is a law student at the William H. Bowen School of Law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. This was her second Capitol Hill Days! She attended last year and returned this year as an experienced activist.
Sydney used this year’s conference to focus on delving deeper into the issue and worked on developing new ways to convey communicate even more effectively with her representatives. She describes her passion for reproductive justice as, “the right to have children, the right to not have children, and the right to parent those children in safe and healthy environments.” She sees reproductive justice as a key component in achieving equality, pointing out that “women will never be equal without reproductive justice.”
Before attending Capitol Hill Days, Sydney did not have any experience with international reproductive healthcare or lobbying. However, after attending, she felt inspired to take action. She became involved locally, and lobbied with her local Planned Parenthood, marched in the Women’s March, and became involved with the Arkansas Coalition for Reproductive Justice. An avid photographer, she helps the groups she works with convey a more effective visual presence on social media.
On campus, Sydney is the president of the Arkansas Association of Women Lawyers, the founder, former president and current treasurer of the Lambda Legal Society, a LGBT group on campus, as well as the treasurer of the Bowen If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice.
Alejandra Aguilar is a freshman social policy and women and gender studies major at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania. She is a member of Lafayette’s Planned Parenthood, a group which spreads awareness for reproductive rights. With the group, she helps organize workshops that give students the tools to better understand consent.
Alejandra first heard about Capitol Hill Days when she attended a #Fight4HER event on campus. She believes that reproductive rights as essential, and although she had never lobbied before, she was more than willing to learn.
At Capitol Hill Days, Alejandra had the opportunity to learn how to talk to her elected officials about the issues that matter to her. She said that the training sessions taught her how to convey her passion for these issues in a professional and persuasive away, something important for communicating with her representatives.
Alejandra entered college as a psychology major, but said her experience at Capitol Hill Days has made her reconsider her choice in study. “I care about social justice because as a minority I have always believed that it’s important to make sure my voice is heard and that I could tell my story,” she explains. “If you don’t use your voice others will try to tell your story for you. Individuals and their experiences are important, so we must make sure that people have the ability to be heard. We are all connected and as humans we have the obligation to help one another.”