165265 Improving Reproductive Health Policy through State-Based Advocacy Networks

Monday, November 5, 2007

Sarah Gareau, MEd DrPH(c) CHES , Department of Health Promotion, Education & Behavior, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC
Brandi Parrish , New Morning Foundation, Columbia, SC
Bonnie Adams , New Morning Foundation, Columbia, SC
New Morning Foundation (NMF) is investing in state-focused grassroots and direct lobbying as part of strategies to improve reproductive health education and clinical access for people 25 and younger in South Carolina. NMF launched its TellThem! e-advocacy network with the goal of developing reproductive health advocates in every state legislative district. NMF also helped to organize the South Carolina Coalition for Healthy Families, whose members lobby aggressively at the statehouse.

TellThem! and the Coalition serve as a unique, collaborative model that is local and not connected directly with a national organization. Being state-focused and locally managed allows for sensitivity to cultural and institutional nuances and keen awareness of legislative, media and historical relationships. Eighteen bills have been introduced this state legislative session, which could threaten, rather than safeguard, reproductive healthcare. TellThem! and the Coalition have played separate but coordinated roles in defeating, stalling or amending several of these bills. The most notorious, S. 84, the ultrasound bill, garnered national media attention and critical support from influential national advocacy organizations.

TellThem! and the Coalition have emerged as leading reproductive health policy organizations and successful constituent-mobilizers in a conservative state. Other states seeking to improve reproductive health policies may be successful by developing a similar state-based model. In doing so, there can be challenges, including finding common ground among diverse agendas, valuing different perspectives while maintaining nonpartisanship, building trust and credibility among advocates/stakeholders, and ensuring that advocacy messages have integrity and are communicated consistently.

Learning Objectives:
Participants will: A) Learn how state-based approaches can be helpful for improving reproductive health policy B) Identify ways to organize grassroots and direct lobbying efforts at the state level C) Discuss challenges to state-level organizing

Keywords: Advocacy, Policy/Policy Development

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Any relevant financial relationships? No
Any institutionally-contracted trials related to this submission?

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.