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Promoting Activism on League Positions
By Sheila Hoff, Program Director of Reproductive Choices
Recognizing that reproductive choice is always fragile, in August 1997, with the support of the State Board, I interacted with local Leagues to establish a program of rapid response when action was needed to protect reproductive choice issues.
Because we know legislators are bombarded with the other side's position and that they hear little from our side, I sought to establish a local contact in each League, someone who would promptly contact legislators when alerted.
A system was devised to allow each activist to identify how they were best contacted: e-mail, fax, or regular mail. Thankfully the e-mail list continues to grow. It proves to be the most effective way for organizations to communicate. Being on-line provides both a source of information and the best way to communicate with members statewide. It allows me to access legislation quickly, and to be in touch with the pro-choice advocates.
This rapid response system works well and it must continue to expand into all Leagues. With term limits, we are electing officials more vulnerable to lobbyists than in the past. Legislators are filling seats who have city government backgrounds and haven't dealt with statewide or broader issues.
The communication provided by local Leagues promotes our positions and helps to let our elected legislators know where their base stands. But there is tremendous complacency on this issue among some of the population, particularly those born after Roe v. Wade. The threat to losing reproductive freedom isn't tangible to many younger women.
As most state legislatures and Governors are anti-choice, both state and national legislation need our attention. While we have a strong pro-choice legislature and a pro-choice Governor, more anti-choice legislation has been introduced in the last few years than ever before-both in California and nationwide-creating the need for continued vigilance.
This year, in California, we have the chance to improve reproductive health care dramatically with the anticipated passage of the Women's Contraception Equity Act. Two bills, AB 39 (Hertzberg) and SB 41(Speier), provide that all health plans covering prescriptions must include FDA-approved prescription contraceptives. Currently, only 33% of large group plans cover oral contraceptives.
Although the bills have been amended to exempt religious employers that primarily employ and serve persons of their religion, they face mounting opposition from religious groups who seek even broader exemptions, such as for universities and hospitals. Passing these bills will be a major achievement for California. We'll keep you informed.
Another major step will be taken if AB 525 (Kuehl and Thomson) passes. Under this bill, access to full reproductive health services would be guaranteed by all health plans and by any hospitals that use public loans or financing programs. AB 525 has stalled but will be brought up again next January. We must educate our communities about the need to protect access, particularly in mergers of religious with secular hospitals.
Your interest and legislative activity are very important to us. I thank you very deeply. I am truly thrilled that this is working and expanding.
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