Just weeks before our annual Capitol Hill Days conference, the first cases of COVID-19 began to present in the United States. In a matter of days, those few cases turned into hundreds, and then thousands, throughout the country. In the face of the rapidly spreading virus, we made the necessary decision to cancel our in-person conference to prioritize the health and safety of our participants, speakers, and staff. Soon after, we began transitioning our entire #Fight4HER campaign online as states across the country issued stay-at-home orders.
Right now, we are facing serious repercussions of this global pandemic as coronavirus continues to spread rampantly across the country. The Trump administration’s response has left us far behind as we scramble to expand access to testing and necessary medical equipment and treatment. While we face this mounting crisis, politicians are exploiting COVID-19 to advance their anti-choice agenda, from attempting to use the pandemic relief bill to further restrict access to reproductive health care to deeming abortion procedures “non-essential” and attempting to close down clinics providing abortion services. As these legislators use coronavirus to chip away at domestic reproductive rights, millions of people around the world still lack access to reproductive health care because of the United States’ dangerous foreign aid policies.
These circumstances have posed new challenges for our field and outreach work as we strive to keep our activists involved in the fight for access to reproductive health care around the world, while supporting and respecting their own health and well-being during these unprecedented times. Though we know that everyone is rightfully focused on this public health crisis, we also know that we cannot forget about the millions of people who lack access to reliable health care because of devastating U.S. reproductive health policies. That’s why we’ve taken our fight online!
Capitol Hill Days Goes Digital
In place of our in-person Capitol Hill Days conference, we quickly transformed the annual event into a CHD Digital Weekend of Action. Undeterred by the new format, #Fight4HER activists all across the country came together to fight back against deadly U.S. policies that have devastated access to reproductive health care globally. They joined us to call on Congress to end the Global Gag Rule and to invest $1.6 billion in international family planning, including $111 million for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
We started the weekend with a kick-off call on Friday, March 27, where 95 activists from across the country joined us to hear about all the ways they can take action to advocate for reproductive health and rights around the globe. We were joined by Melvine Ouyo, #Fight4HER advocate from Nairobi, Kenya, who talked about the critical importance of repealing the Global Gag Rule and investing in international family planning and reproductive health programs.
Later on Friday, our sister organization, Population Connection Action Fund, stormed Twitter in a virtual “rally.” Over 2,000 people participated, reaching over 9.2 million users—the Action Fund’s most successful social media engagement to date! The campaign hashtag, #Fight4HER, trended on Twitter in the U.S. thanks to activists and partner organizations sharing their powerful videos about why they fight to repeal the Global Gag Rule.
On Saturday and Sunday, we released a series of digital sessions. These videos gave our activists the opportunity to connect virtually with a great lineup of reproductive health and progressive organizing experts who spoke about the crucial need for reproductive justice, the devastating impact of the Global Gag Rule, and their best advocacy and organizing tips.
On Monday, March 30, we flooded congressional offices with emails, tweets, and phone calls to demand access to comprehensive reproductive health care for people around the world. In all, we had 980 advocates send 3,224 messages to their legislators, and we held virtual meetings with congressional offices in key states with constituents across the country. We engaged with key members of Congress, including Rep. Susie Lee, who joined our Nevada activists for their virtual meeting, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Rep. Annie Kuster, and Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, who tweeted out their support for the #Fight4HER to repeal the Global Gag Rule.
Our activists are making it clear to their elected officials that global reproductive health needs to be a top priority, even in the face of this pandemic. As we practice social distancing to help flatten the curve, we know that the #Fight4HER will persist as strongly as ever. We look forward to continuing the fight online with you all, and hope you’re staying safe and healthy.