UNH members of the #Fight4HER campaign continued to campaign for the protection of international reproductive rights last weekend when they traveled to Washington, D.C. to attend a conference hosted by Population Connection Action Fund, the organization that funds and oversees #Fight4HER.
Students applied to attend the trip through Population Connection, and every student who applied was accepted. Population Connection also provided scholarships to every student to cover the cost of flights, hotels and most meals, because “we wanted to make the event as accessible as possible for student[s], regardless of their income,” according to New Hampshire #Fight4HER field organizer Woody Little.
Administrative coordinator of the UNH Women’s Studies Program, Julia Pond, and political science and women’s studies professor Marla Brettschneider, accompanied the 18 UNH students who went on the trip. A total of 352 participants attended the conference, nearly all of them students, with large numbers from other schools who have #Fight4HER campaigns as well as some who heard about the trip and signed up through Population Connection independently.
At the conference, which took place from March 24-27, representatives from Population Connection, Change Corps, Planned Parenthood and more, taught students about reproductive justice, international family planning, global harassment, and the influence of the Mexico City Policy, or more commonly known as the Global Gag Rule. Participants also learned organizing skills and how to lobby successfully.
The Global Gag Rule, which has been reinstated by President Donald Trump this year, cuts funding to women’s health facilities around the world. #Fight4HER’s primary goal is to replace the Global Gag Rule with the Global HER (Health, Empowerment, Rights) act, which “would create a permanent, legislative repeal of the Global Gag Rule,” according to the Population Connection Action Fund website.
Conference participants also had the opportunity to meet with representatives from their respective states to discuss the issue of global reproductive justice. According to Population Connection, a total of 34 states were represented and 190 lobby visits were made.
Hannah Wagner, a freshman musical theater and justice studies double major, has been involved with #Fight4HER since the campaign kicked off at the beginning of this semester. She met with three staff members for New Hampshire representatives; one who worked with Maggie Hassan, one with Carol Shea-Porter and one with Jeanne Shaheen. Wagner says the goal of meeting with the representatives was to urge them to support the Global HER act, and increase the funding for international family planning from $610 million to $1.2 billion. Wagner said the HER act won’t be passed this year, but it is a priority that they “need to keep on everyone’s mind.”
Wagner said she wanted to go to the conference because she believed it would be a helpful supplement to her major, but also “to learn and be more knowledgeable about it [global reproductive justice] and be able to have conversations about it.”
#Fight4HER activists will use what they learned at the nation’s capital during the “petition palooza” over the next two weeks, when they will be gathering more petitions for the Global HER act to add to the 650 that they have already delivered to Jeanne Shaheen’s office. The organization is also planning a panel discussion for the coming month of April.