Dear Advocate,

Thank you for joining us and many others in Georgia working for a progressive vision of reproductive health and rights. “Voice Beyond Choice” Campaign is dependent upon your support. This Action Kit will help you to educate yourself and others, build support, and encourage your state elected officials to oppose several bills in Georgia’s state legislature that could seriously harm reproductive health.

The “Voice Beyond Choice” Campaign addresses and can be a useful tool to:

• Organize and educate interested and concerned individuals,
• Ensure access to the full range of reproductive services, and
• Advocate for an expanded vision of reproductive health and rights.

It is important to spread the word that the political actions challenging women’s heath rights will not stand. It has gone too far. We must act now and say --- “No more!” Fortunately, there are several ways to work for change and by using this Action Kit you’ll have the tools to advocate and lobby for women’s health. You’ll be joining many others across the state taking similar actions.

 

This Action Kit will help you…
• Raise public awareness and build support against anti-abortion legislation
• Work to defeat legislation that further restricts or limits access to the full range of reproductive health services.
• Support legislation that promotes a progressive vision of reproductive health and rights.
• Lobby your state elected legislators and officials regarding why the issue of reproductive health is important and urge them to make a commitment to vote against harmful legislation.

For more information and resources, go to www.feministcenter.org. Together, we can make a difference for the rights of people and families in Georgia. Please act now!
 

 


 

Overview of the Georgia State Legislature

Georgia’s state legislature is a two-house body with a 180-member State House and a 56-member State Senate. The role of the state legislature is to make law, including passing a budget that funds all state agencies. The Governor may or may not sign all legislation passed by the legislature in order for it to become law.

“The Session” – Our state’s legislature convenes each year for 40 days beginning on the second Monday of January. The 40 days are counted by each day that the legislature has time on the floor to consider voting on bills. Business must be completed by midnight of the 40th day, and a concurrent House and Senate resolution called “adjournment sine die” accomplishes its conclusion.

Typically, during the session, the legislature recesses for several days to deliberate on the state budget with most sessions ending sometime in mid to late March. The calendar timing for the legislative session was based on Georgia’s agricultural economy --- many elected officials were farmers who could only come to the state capital when there was no growing season.

In 2010, the legislature had numerous recesses, and the session lasted until early May – this was the longest session any lobbyist has had in memory.

Odd-numbered years are the first years of 2-year legislative sessions. Bills introduced the first year of the 2-year term of our state legislators are “carried over” to the second year as long as these bills have not been voted down or “killed.” If these bills have not passed by the end of the second year, then the bills are no longer valid and cannot be carried over again. After the next election, the same bill can always be introduced again.

Georgia House & Senate Members – Every legislator is elected for two year terms every two years (no staggered terms). If there is a vacancy, there is a special election. There are 180 State House districts and 56 State Senate districts which are established every 10 years by a reapportionment process (this process is based on the national census and the legislature redraws the district lines based on the new population levels).

To determine your Georgia House or Senate member, check for your district numbers on your voter’s registration card. If you have not registered yet, check with your county’s voter’s registration office (in the blue pages of the phone book), or visit www.sos.ga.gov. You also can determine who is your Representative or Senator by calling House Information at 404/656-5082 or Senate Information at 404/656-0028 and giving them your district numbers. This information is also available online at www.legis.state.ga.us. Another easy way to find your legislators is to enter your complete address including zip code at www.votesmart.org.

All legislators serve on specific committees and the information about their committee assignments is available at www.legis.state.ga.us. Remember - since all bills are assigned to committees, these assignments are very important determinants for the direction of your lobbying efforts.

Most legislators have offices in the Coverdell Office Building (across from the western entrance/exit to the state capitol building). All of the House committee chairs and most of the Senate committee chairpersons have offices in the state capitol building.

 

 



House & Senate Leadership

House & Senate Leadership – Currently the Senate leadership is up in the air. Formerly, the President of the Senate (which is the Lt. Governor) presided over the Senate. The Speaker presides over the House. Both positions are extremely powerful, making all committee assignments, while also controlling the day-to-day activities of their respective chambers. There are also positions of power called “floor leaders” which are appointed each session by the governor and have the responsibility of championing his/her legislation. While the House leadership structure remains largely the same, the Senate leadership will be decided as the legislative session approaches.

Democrats were the majority party in both chambers of the legislature until the 2002 elections. With the results of the 2002 elections, the Republicans had a majority in the State Senate. Since the 2004 elections, Republicans have had a majority in both the State Senate and the House.

Other leadership positions in the House and Senate are through the Democratic and Republican caucuses. Caucus officers and party leaders are elected for two year terms in each chamber. In each chamber, the party leader and the party whip of the majority party and the minority party are assigned as the majority or minority leader and majority or minority whip. Party leaders are responsible for handling organizational business and the party whips are responsible for communicating party positions to the membership. Also, the Women’s Caucus and the Black Caucus both wield sizable influence and are important spheres for advocates to be aware as an avenue to direct your lobbying efforts. For example, certain bills that have been fully endorsed by the Women’s Caucus or the Black Caucus are difficult for other members to oppose without appearing to be against women’s or civil rights.

Committees – Most of the work done on legislation occurs in committees. Bills must be passed in committee in order to be voted on the floor of either body. In the House, the Speaker makes all committee assignments. In election years, when the new Speaker of the House is elected by its members, sometimes House committee assignments are not known until the session begins (and the Speaker is elected). Formerly, the President of the Senate made all committee assignments. In more recent years it was the Committee on Committees. Again, this may change as the 2013 session approaches.

Committees usually adhere to a daily or weekly meeting schedule when the legislature is in session, although the meetings are often postponed or re-scheduled on a short notice. Most meeting notices are posted outside the offices of the House Clerk and the Secretary of Senate offices. If you are trying to closely monitor the activity of a specific committee, check with the committee secretary on a daily basis or check for notices outside the committee room.

You can also call the Clerk of the House at 404/656-5015 or the Secretary of Senate at 404/656-5040 for information about committee meetings. When the legislature is not in session, call the Legislative Counsel at 404/656-5000 and ask to be placed on their mailing list to receive a weekly schedule of meetings.

Before the 10th day in the House and the 15th day in the Senates, bills that receive a committee vote of “do pass” are automatically put on the House or Senate calendar. However, the Speaker of the House or the President of the Senate must call the bill or place it on the daily agenda for debate and action. For the remaining 25 to 30 days, the Senate and House calendars are controlled by their respective Rules Committees, which must vote to put a bill on the daily calendar for consideration.

Committee chairs are considered part of the House or Senate leadership. Certain committees are especially powerful and chairs of these committees have close ties to the Speaker or the President of the Senate. These notable committees include the House Ways and Means, plus the House and Senate appropriations, Rules and Judiciary committees.



 


Legislative Terms

Act – A bill which has been passed both houses of the General Assembly in identical form and become law, with or without the Governor’s signature.

Adjournment – Suspension of a legislative session. “Adjournment until a day certain” is a temporary suspension of proceedings during a session, while “adjournment sine die” marks the final closing of the session.

Administration Floor Leader – A legislator chosen in each house by the Governor to introduce and support bills favored or initiated by the Governor or his administration.

Appropriation – The budget act which authorizes the spending of public money for specific purposes.

Bill – A proposed law. Bills usually propose changes or additions to the existing statutory law.

Calendar – A daily listing of the bills and resolutions which have been reported from committee and are ready for third reading, debate, and voting by the full membership of a house. A “general calendar,” prepared by the Clerk of the House and the Secretary of the Senate, governs the order of business for the first 19 days of the session. A “rules calendar” sets the daily agenda for the last 21 days of a session, and is prepared by the rules committee of each house.

Caucus – A group of legislators who associate together on the basis of membership in a political party of common interests, and meet to discuss policy and strategy and coordinate their legislative efforts.

Clerk of the House – The chief administrative officer of the House of Representatives. Though not a representative, the Clerk is a full-time staff official whose duties include: receiving and printing all bills introduced in the House; recording all votes taken on the floor; and certifying the daily record of legislative action on bills and resolutions.

Code – A collection of a government’s statutes and their revisions. A state’s code is usually found in a series of volumes according to subject matter (and is usually subdivided by title, chapter, and section).

Committee – Committees of legislators include: (a) the “standing committee” which studies proposed legislation in some general field of legislative activity (e.g., agriculture, education, and health) and recommends to the full membership whether that legislation should be supported or not; (b) the “conference committee” which is composed of members appointed to both houses to reconcile difference in versions of a particular problem and report back to the full membership; (d) the “Committee of the Whole” which is the designation for either house when its entire membership meets as a committee to study matters under house rules relaxed to permit more informal discussion.

Constitutional Majority – The Georgia Constitution requires a majority of the entire membership (regardless of how many are actually present) to vote for the passage of bills and resolutions which will have the effect of law. In contrast, many motions on procedural matters require only a “simple majority,” or a majority of those present and voting.

Enrollment – Preparation of a bill in its final and official form to show precise language of the measure passed by both houses.

Hopper – The symbolic name for the place where legislators file bills for introduction with the Clerk of the House or Secretary of the Senate.

Journal – The official record of legislative proceedings in each house.

Law – A general term, usually used for official acts and statues of the legislature.

Legislative Counsel – The staff office which provides bill drafting, legal counseling, reference, and other legal assistance and services to members of the General Assembly.

Lobbying – Activities by persons or groups acting on behalf of others to influence legislation.

Majority Floor Leader – The member chosen by each house’s majority party caucus to manage the passage of those bills it favors.

Motion – A formal proposal made by a legislator to take some type of procedural action, such as adjourning or holding a roll call vote.

President of the Senate – The presiding officer of the Senate; the Lieutenant Governor. “President Pro Tempore” is the senator elected by the other members to take the place of the president in case of absence, disability, or resignation.

Quorum – The minimum number of members required to be present to perform house business. In the General Assembly, the quorum for each house is a majority of its total.

Readings of a Bill – The actual reading of a bill on three separate days in each house (the first two readings of which are by title only, with the third reading in its entirety) required by the Georgia Constitution before a bill can be debated, amended, or voted on.

Resolution – A legislative proposal, similar to a bill, that usually is used to express the opinion or will of one or both houses, for example, expressions of sympathy or appreciation. Resolutions usually do not deal with statutory law.

Rules of Each House – The procedural rules or guidelines adopted by each house to govern its legislative conduct and action.

Secretary of the Senate – The chief administrative officer of the Senate, equivalent to the Clerk of the House, with the same status and duties.

Speaker of the House – The presiding officer of the House, a member of that body, is elected every two years. The many powers of this office include appointment of committees and their officers and assignments of bills to committee. The “Speaker Pro Tempore” is that member elected to preside in the Speaker’s absence.

Statute – The written, permanent law formally enacted by the legislature.

Title – A bill’s introduction summarizing and listing the subject matter of the bill as well as statutes affected by it.

Veto – The Governor’s disapproval of a bill passed by the General Assembly. Unless overridden by two-thirds vote of the total membership of each house, a veto prevents a bill from becoming law.

Well – Term used for a legislator to speak for or against a bill to the other members from the lectern (“well”) at the front of the chambers in the House and Senate.
 

For more Legislative Terms online, visit: http://georgiainfo.galileo.usg.edu/legch

 


 

Tips on Being an Advocate


These are some of the factors that affect your success:

√ Constituent Power: Elected officials are the most responsive to voters in their district, and especially, if you are registered. If you are a constituent, your communications should make note of that fact, sometimes even with your street address.

√ Connection to a Citizens Group: If you are part of a citizens group or some other group working together in coalition in your advocacy efforts, your communications should make note of that fact. This helps build the reputation and power base of your group to effect change on the issues you care about with the elected official. Being a part of a citizens group will also assist you in your advocacy efforts. This is because your efforts will be combined with other individuals who care about your issue, and are timed strategically as part of a larger campaign.

√ Personal relationships: As with other people, legislators respond more positively to people they know rather than people who are strangers. Sometimes the best way to influence an elected official may involve recruiting someone who has a personal relationship with an elected official (such as a relative, their minister, a campaign donor, etc.) to carry the message.

√ Knowledge of the issue: You can increase your credibility with elected officials by knowing the issue or being a resource. However, if you don’t know the answer to a question, never guess or give information of which you are not sure. This could ruin your credibility -- let the legislator know that you are passing the question on or finding the answer, and then do that.

√ Knowledge of a legislator’s past voting record or position on your issue: Knowing these important factors can often determine the intensity of your advocacy efforts towards a legislator. If a legislator is supportive, it’s important to recognize them for his/her past support. If a legislator has a mixed record or unknown position, it’s an excellent opportunity for educating the legislator and many advocacy campaigns are directed towards these legislators the most. If a legislator is opposed, your communications may identify a specific way that a legislator may be in “your camp” (it would be critical to pass this info onto your group’s lobbyist in this case). Although if a legislator is adamantly opposed, your best bet may be only to begin a dialogue – since you don’t know what other matters you may be approaching a legislator in the future.

√ “Timing can be everything:” During the legislative session, there are thousands of bills and too little time for legislators to “digest” every word. Elected officials rely on advocates and lobbyists to help them focus on important issues. When you communicate to legislators during the session, you need to understand those time constraints and focus your message, too. In addition, it is often important to deliver your message at key times (when a bill is assigned to the committee, when there is committee action to be taken, etc.) in order to be most effective. The best time to really get to know your legislators is before the legislative session begins.

√ Treat legislators with respect, no matter what their position: Always approach elected officials in a cooperative, respectful manner even if their position is radically opposed to your position. Sometimes one may feel frustrated with an elected official who remains adamantly opposed to your view (even despite the scientific research, evidence of constituent support, etc.); however, please don’t “burn bridges” no matter how frustrated one may get.




Remember to Vote!

Registering to Vote
You can register to vote at public libraries, many banks, fire stations, and government offices. When “Motor Voter” laws were passed in the 1990s, voter registration was also permitted when you get a new or renewed driver’s license. At http://sos.georgia.gov/elections/voter_registration/voter_reg_app.htm, voter registration applications can even be found online.

What are the requirements to qualify for voting?
• Must be a US citizen;
• Must be 18 years or older; and
• Must register to vote in the county in which you reside (no residency time requirement).

Voting on Election Day
Voters are required to present identification at their polling place prior to casting their ballot. Proper identification shall consist of any one of the following:

• A Georgia driver's license which was properly issued by the appropriate state agency;
• A valid voter identification card or other valid identification card issued by a branch, department, agency, or entity of the State of Georgia, any other state, or the United States authorized by law to issue personal identification containing a photograph;
• A valid United States passport;
• A valid employee identification card containing a photograph of the elector and issued by any branch, department, agency, or entity of the United States government, this state, or any county, municipality, board, authority, or other entity of this state;
• A valid United States military identification card containing a photograph of the elector;
• A valid tribal identification card containing a photograph of the elector

Absentee Voting
A voter who requests an absentee ballot by mail is not required to provide a reason why he or she is voting absentee. You may vote by absentee ballot in person if:

• You will be absent from your precinct from 7:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. on Election Day.
• You are 75 years of age or older.
• You have a physical disability which prevents you from voting in person or you are a constant caregiver of a person with a disability.
• You are an election official.
• You are observing a religious holiday which prevents you from voting in person.
• You are required to remain on duty in your precinct for the protection of life, health, or safety of the public.
• An elector may cast an absentee ballot in person at the registrar's office during the period of Monday through Friday of the week immediately preceding the date of the election without having to provide a reason.

You may request an absentee ballot as early as 180 days before an election. Absentee ballots must be received by the county board of registrars' office by 7:00 p.m. on Election Day. No absentee ballots are issued on the day before or the day of an election. You may download an application for official absentee/advance ballot and mail it or fax it to your county board of registrars' office. The application must be in writing and contain the address to which the ballot is to be mailed, sufficient information to identify you as a voter, and the election in which you wish to vote - no reason is required when requesting an absentee ballot by mail.

More information is also available online at http://sos.georgia.gov/elections/voting_information.htm

 


Effective Lobbying Tips

There are at least three purposes to a lobby visit:
1. To put your organization on record in the hope of influencing a vote;
2. To obtain information; and
3. To establish a relationship with an elected official.

The following tips will help you achieve the above purposes:

Research the legislator. Know as much as you can about the person you are trying to influence --- party affiliation, committee assignments, position on your issue, and voting history.

Prepare Talking Points. Know your issue and prepare a list of specific points that you want to discuss during the visit. Understand your organization’s position on the issue and be able to explain this to the legislator. Be able to explain the arguments that the opposition employs. Most elected officials want to understand all sides of an issue.

Express appreciation for any support the legislator has given to your organization in the past.

Lobby in two’s and three’s. You will give each other moral support and will have someone with whom to compare impressions with later. This latter point is especially helpful when dealing with an elected official who will not be explicit about his/her stand.

Have a representative delegation. Having a diverse group allows you to express different points of view --- i.e., medical professional, parent, youth, clergy, and/or businessperson.

Present a positive image. Form a lasting impression and develop a good rapport. Dress appropriately and be confident in your presentation, but not threatening.

Stay on topic. Confine your conversation as far as possible to the measure(s) you are discussing. Express only your organization’s point of view, not your own. Don’t let the elected official stray onto other issues; otherwise, the impact of the visit will be minimized.

Ask for advice. If you know the elected official favors your position, let her/him know that you are aware of that fact and ask for advice on how to reach other legislators with your message.

Don’t argue. Try to avoid any prolonged or controversial argument. It is likely to confirm the elected official in her/his opinion. Don’t try to pin the legislator down or into a corner – s/he may need room to change their position later.

If possible, don’t allow the legislator to commit definitely against your position. It is better to leave the representative undecided than committed against you. Someone else might be able to convince him/her.

Don’t take notes during your meeting. Legislators will be more likely to clam up if they know their opinions are being recorded. As soon as you finish, find a quiet place and make your notes – don’t depend on your memory.

Don’t be afraid to admit your ignorance. Say you will find the answer and report back, and be sure to do so. This is a great opportunity to follow up with your elected official.

Don’t interrupt. Allow the legislator to present her/his viewpoint fully. Be a good listener.

Don’t alienate your elected official. Attempt to leave the legislator with a friendly feeling, even though you may disagree. Say you are sorry that you don’t agree and do not emphasize the difference of opinions. You will need to talk to them in the future on other bills.
 

 


 

The Process of Personal Lobbying

  1. Appointment: Set up an appointment with the legislator or with the legislative aide who handles the issue.  If you are a constituent, you are entitled to a personal appointment with the legislator, so work for that.

  2. Preparation: Know how the legislator has voted, and what the record shows about the legislator’s position.  If possible, learn how the legislator feels about other issues.

  3. Entering the Office: When you enter the office, state your name and organization clearly.  Smile.  Indicate with whom you have made the appointment.

  4. Greet Your Legislator: If your appointment is with the legislative aid or the legislator, greet him/her with a handshake and your name and organization.

  5. Beginning the Interview: Listen: At the beginning of the interview, be prepared to listen to what the legislator has to say.  If s/he is unsure of why you came, state your desire to learn why s/he votes the way s/he does.  What is the reason for supporting/opposing abortion rights?  Find out where the legislator is coming from – moral reservations?  Religious beliefs?  Constituent pressure?  Economics?  Discrimination/Fairness?

  6. Present Your Idea & Persuade: Once you have learned her/his position, address yourself to these points.  Use arguments, facts, polls, etc., to persuade.  Be emphatic, personal, and convincing.  Showing emotion is fine as long as it is not hostile and therefore negative.  If the person supports reproductive justice, find out what you can do to support.

  7.  What is the Critical Influence: Before you leave the interview, consider whether you have an understanding of the way in which you may influence this vote.  Ask the legislative aid (if s/he is supportive) who/what can get to the legislator.  Mail, contributor, doctors, clergy, spouse, defeat at polls?

  8. Thank You, Leave Material: As you leave, thank the person for her/his time.  Smile.  Give them some material to study and refer to, but do not burden them with too much

  9. Follow up with a thank you letter: Stating what you gained from the interview and reiterating your position and who you represent.

  10.  

    Birddogging: “Birddogging” legislators at their public appearances reinforces other activities by reminding them that there are people behind the calls and letters.

 

 

 


In-District Lobbying Visits


What are In-District Lobbying Visits?
District Lobbying visits are visits by a group of citizens to their legislator or legislator’s aide. The visit usually concerns a specific issue and lasts about half an hour. It is important to coordinate visits with FWHC’s lobbyist (during legislative sessions), so please call the Feminist Women's Health Center’s office, if you are planning a visit.

How to Make a Visit
After you have recruited a group of three to six supportive, constituents, call your legislator’s district office (listed in the telephone book) and request an appointment. If you are unable to meet directly with the legislator, you should definitely accept an appointment with the aide. State approximately the number of people in your group, and your affiliation with the Feminist Women's Health Center.

When to Make a Visit
Lobbying visits are productive at any time, but especially before a specific vote is taken.

Who Can Make District Lobbying Visits?
You! Me! Anyone who is concerned and wants to demonstrate reproductive health and rights involvement can do so in one of the most effective ways possible. A lawmaker knows that a small group of people (3-6) in her/his office represents broad reproductive rights support in their community – especially if that group is varied (includes both sexes, professionals and non-professionals, young and old, etc).

Whom Do We Visit?
Both opposing and supportive legislators need to feel our presence. They need to know we monitor votes on this issue. There are volunteers who work during election time. The groups opposing reproductive health and rights are often very visible and persistent. We need to make sure the legislators know there are more supportive individuals than opposed and that we place priority on this issue.

What Should We Ask?
A list of questions tailored to the specific legislator should be prepared before a lobbying visit. FWHC can supply you with a voting record of the legislator you are visiting, and general information regarding her/his position. We can also send some helpful suggestions for effective lobbying techniques. However, it is important to remember that you are not supposed to be an expert lobbyist; you are a constituent with a point of view, that’s what counts.
If the visit is to a supportive legislator, you can discuss new approaches reproductive health and rights activists in your area are taking, and ask her/his opinion of these approaches. You can also ask what leadership role the legislator might take.
When visiting an opposition legislator, you’ll want to obtain more suggestions on meeting content, contact the FWHC office.

After the Visit…
One member of the group should take responsibility for writing a brief note to the legislator, which should include a reiteration of your point of view. The FWHC office would appreciate receiving a copy of the thank you letter and your own reactions to the visit. FWHC has Constituent Lobby Report Forms. Please complete one and return it to us for our records. District lobbying visits can produce valuable information that we can share with our lobbyist.
 

 


Writing Your Elected Officials


According to our former FWHC lobbyist as few as 3 letters on an issue is considered significant by legislative staffers. Legislators notice an increase in their mail and rely on letters to find out what their constituents are thinking. With the simple tools of pen, paper, envelope, and stamp, you can have an important role in shaping your representative’s opinion.

Remember to be…

1. Brief - A short letter is more effective than pages of documentation or discussion. Remember it all boils down to a “yes” or “no” in the legislator’s mind.

2. Specific - Deal with only one subject in the letter and state the topic clearly in the first paragraph. When writing about a particular bill, try to specify the bill’s title, number, and sponsor – thousands of bills are introduced each legislative session.

3. Personal - Your own experience and personal opinion count more with legislators than statistics or scientific data. This shows the legislators that you feel deeply about your issue.

4. Persistent - Write often to your own legislator, especially to those who are undecided or opposed to reproductive rights. You can make a dent! Keep in mind that people opposed to reproductive rights write every week.

5. Polite - Even though you may disagree with a legislator’s position, your message will be more effective if the tone is restrained and respectful.

6. Yourself – Always Sign your name and give your address. Legislators pay most attention to letters from people who live in their district --- their constituents. If a strategically key legislator is from another district, go ahead and write – but also try recruit willing people who live in that district who will be willing to write.

7. Grateful - Supporting reproductive rights can be hard for a legislator, especially if his/her district does not support the issue. If your representative votes are supporting reproductive justice, let him/her know you’re aware of that position and you’re grateful.

8. CALL US AT (404) 248-5445 TO GET THE FACTS!
 

Below are  a few pointer on how to write your legislator.

• Address state senators, congressional representatives, etc. as The Honorable _____ and executive branch holders by their position, e.g. Governor ______.
• Identify yourself as a concerned citizen, a member of a particular organization, a teacher, realtor, doctor, homemaker, etc.
• Be positive in tone (no threats), sincere, and constructive. Raise questions – a good question can get a personal response.
• It is not necessary to type the letter, but it should be neat and legible.
• Don’t forget to include your name and address on both envelope and the letter.
• Keep a copy of every letter you
• send (if possible).
 

 



Write a Letter to the Editor of a Newspaper


Letters to the editor are shorter (150-500 words) opinion pieces, like Op-Eds, usually written in response to something published in the newspaper. They are often printed in a “Letters to the Editor” section of the paper. Letters to the Editor provide a means for an individual to express her/his opinion, respond to false or biased information, or have her/his voice heard in a public debate. They are usually relatively easy to get printed and are a good way to keep the public debate focused on your issues when there is no news about women’s issues or you are unable to get an op-ed or editorial printed. This is an ideal advocacy activity for an individual working alone.

How to Write a Letter to the Editor

Be Newsworthy – Make sure the letter is connected to some timely event or issue. For example, you might write a letter commenting on the need for reproductive health services in the health care reform plan when that issue is being hotly debated in Congress. You could connect it to a local health care bill or an event your group is sponsoring, too.
Be Persuasive – This is an opinion piece. Make as persuasive a case as possible for your specific cause. Appeal to the reader’s sense of justice, decency, patriotism, or empathy to make your case. (e.g., talk about the need for an “equitable health care system for all;” how “women should not be treated as second-class citizens when it comes to their health,” etc.)
Use Facts – Support your argument and underscore the need for change with facts.
• Use a Human Interest Angle –Support your message with a personal experience. This will help readers relate your group’s story to their own experiences.
Use Simple Language – Assume that the reader knows nothing about women’s issues.
• Keep It Focused and Concise – Use short words, sentences, and paragraphs.
Make Your Point Up Front – The most important information in the piece should be near the beginning. Editors cut from the bottom when a piece is too long.

Submitting Your Letter
(Letter to the Editor advice from the Atlanta Journal Constitution)
• Letters to the editor should be 150 words. We value the opinions of all our readers, and we must limit the length so that we can publish as many opinions as possible.
• Letters should include a daytime telephone number where we may reach the writer for verification. The number will not be published.
• All letters must include the author’s name and hometown.
• When possible, provide a citation for detailed information you provide.
• While our columnists and reporters are fair game for criticism, the AJC aims not to publish criticism of other letter writers. Stick to issues when possible.
• Proofread letters before submission. We edit for length, clarity, accuracy, and grammar.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution accepts letters via US mail, fax, and email.
FAX: 404.526.5610. EMAIL: [email protected]
MAIL TO: Letters to the Editor P.O. Box 4689 Atlanta, GA 30302
The AJC also accepts letters on the web at http://www.ajc.com/opinion/content/opinion/letters/sendletter.html

How to Get Your Letter Printed
• Identify Op-Ed Staff – Call local and regional newspapers to find out to whom the piece should be sent (health or op-ed editor for larger newspapers; general editor for smaller ones).
• Send the Piece – Send the piece along with a Press Kit to all identified contacts.
• Include Your Name – Include in your packet a cover letter with your name, address, and phone number. Most newspapers will not print unsigned letters.
• Send Multiple Letters – Have several different people in your group send their own Letters to the Editor. Multiple letters that each focus on a different aspect of women’s issues in health care reform will have a greater impact on readers and will increase the likelihood of getting the letters published.
 

 


Stay Involved – Join the “Voice Beyond Choice” Campaign!

• Hold a house meeting for your friends and family along with one of our Campaign speakers.

• Invite one of our VBC Campaign speakers to your church, temple, community center, or any local group with interest.

• Become an Advocacy Home Team Member to write, call, and visit your legislator in-district.

• Participate in an Advocacy Day at the state capitol.

• Link our website to your homepage or website.

• Social Network with us on Facebook or Twitter to spread news about this Campaign.

• Identify yourself as a Reproductive Justice supporter and encourage others to do the same.

Be a FAN! Our Feminist Advocacy Network provides you with up-to-date action alerts about legislation, events, and advocacy notices. Join hundreds of supporters, advocates, & volunteers who are expressing their voice to protect women’s health. You are needed! Sign up at feministcenter.org

Express Yourself – Join Our Reproductive Justice ACTION Team. ACTION – Actively Committed To Influence & Organize Now! Do you have a flexible daytime schedule? Do you like visibly showing your support for important issues? If so, sign up to be on our ACTION Team and participate in rallies, hearings, and press conferences.

Be a Part of Our Advocacy Committee.
Do you have experience or knowledge about the legislative process or issues? Do you enjoy planning activities? If so, be a part of our legislative committee and become a driving force committed to working for change.

If you are interested in any of the above activities, please contact us at 404.248-5445 or [email protected]:

 

Thank you again for working so hard for this important cause.
Don’t forget to spread the word to your friends and family!
 

 

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