After a year of frightening right-wing attacks on global investments in family planning, 350 population activists descended on D.C. from March 16-19th to speak out against Trump’s Global Gag Rule. They urged 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).
An annual event jointly sponsored by Population Connection and Population Connection Action Fund, this year’s Capitol Hill Days brought student activists and Population Connection members and supporters from thirty-one states and D.C. to gather for a weekend of learning about the impact of U.S. policy on real lives abroad, 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 the Action Fund’s #Fight4HER campaign and plan attention grabbing grassroots events and actions.
The weekend began 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, and we are proud to have her stand beside us as we fight for reproductive rights around the world.
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 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 damaging policies.
At the lobby day following the weekend, student and veteran advocates headed to the Capitol, to attend 178 scheduled meetings 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.
Two members of Congress refused to meet with constituents that day—Mike Kelly (R-PA) and Jim Jordan (R-OH). One of our brave Pittsburge advocates responded by hosting a “meeting” with a cardboard cutout of Rep. kelly. She told him loudly and clearly that he needs to rethink his stance on Trump’s Global Gag Rule and reproductive rights, and informed him of the damage being done to lives around the world by his lack of support for international family planning.