5 Simple Ways to Get Politically Active as #BreastCancerFeminists and Say ‘NO’ to the AHCA 

Looking stoic at a local civil rights rally, March 2016. Photo courtesy of author.

Turn on the news, read your local newspaper (if you still actually subscribe to one), or log onto Facebook, and odds are in the last few weeks you’ve heard about the ongoing closed-door Senate negotiations regarding the American Health Care Act (AHCA) AKA Trumpcare 2.0. The fate of our nation’s healthcare is currently being debated by a select group of US Senators behind closed doors. They’re expected to make an announcement on the legislation any day now, which is making people nervous. The question sleeps getting raised, weren’t these deliberations supposed to take awhile?

Let’s face it, the never-ending healthcare firestorm saga raging in our nation’s capital is cemented in our public conscienceness. And yet, when it comes to breast cancer, my perception personally has been that within the broad breast cancer awareness space as a whole, politics have been largely left out. Truthfully, like many I feel that health supersedes all politics, and it should be above the fray of DC backhanded politics. But, it just isn’t. We could debate until the cows come home why breast cancer treatment and healthcare shouldn’t be political, but that won’t change that it just already is. And the only way to ensure that breast cancer treatment doesn’t increase on average upwards to $30K p/year nationwide, or to ensure that 40K women in the US don’t die from breast cancer, is to get political — fiercely political.

As a #breastcancerfeminist I believe that women’s healthcare is a human right that must be defended and protected. The biggest threat looming over women’s healthcare undoubtedly is the American Healthcare Act. In previous posts (see here and here) I attest why the AHCA is bad for women diagnosed with breast cancer. But today, I want to provide critical action steps that all women and men should take to put pressure on our lawmakers to say ‘NO’ to the AHCA. As a nation we’re at at at a critical tipping point on healthcare, and now is the time to put the pressure on our lawmakers. Or, you can go back to wasting your time posting long-winded, nonsensical, irrationally angry comments on Facebook, it’s your life I guess.

1) Join a local civil rights organization

Whether you’re looking for inspiration, hope, or just other like-minded individuals, it’s never too late to join a local civil rights organization. Local organizers are always welcoming to newcomers. Trust me, they’ll be extremely appreciative that you’re even taking the time to come out and support their cause. No matter who you are, there’re certainly an organization out there for every one of you #breastcancerfeminists. For those of you recently inspired by the #Resist movement, you could join your local Indivisible chapter. The Indivisible Project, started by former Congressional staffers that aspired to help people make a tangible political difference after the 2016 election, took the nation by storm. Subscribe to the Indivisible email list, and every week theyll send you a weekly to-do list for you to follow. This week they included their comprehensive Trumpcare toolkit. Unsure of where you can find an Indivisible chapter near you? Look no further than this map below, I’m pretty sure you’ll have some luck!

Can you count all these Indivisible groups? I can’t. Photo credit: Indivisible Project.

If Indivisible isn’t quite your jam, you can volunteer with a more traditional civil rights organization. Reputable and long-standing organizations like the NAACP, LULAC and especially the ACLU, which has raised over $24 million after the presidential election, have affiliate chapters nationwide. And are you in the healthcare industry? Join the SEIU Nurse alliance. If that doesn’t apply to you, find your local SEIU chapter and sign up to volunteer today, it’ll take five minutes tops.

Point is, if you’re looking for a civil rights organization to join, you have no excuse. Get out there and start mobilizing!

2) Write a letter to the editor

Perhaps mobilizing with a local civil rights organization just really isn’t your jam. Well if any of you are like me, yes I’m looking at all you fellow bloggers out there, then maybe your strong suit is your writing. Most local newspapers accept letters to the editor. Letters are usually around 150-300 words from what I’ve seen, so that’s a solid paragraph, two paragraphs tops. Most newspapers have gone digital, so your letter could be disseminated in print and/or over the web. Let’s look at my local newspaper for a second, the Miami Herald. According to the Miami Herald, your letter is permitted a 200 maximum word count. Don’t worry, their online submission portal includes a word counter so you really can’t go over!

Is it worth your time to submit a letter? The common wisdom as of late is that traditional journalism is dying. Well again let’s look at the Miami Herald. According to Statista, in spring 2016 the Miami Herald had 67 million readers. Print journalism isn’t doing so hot, but still 67 million readers is nothing to scoff at. And if you look on their social media profiles, as of Tuesday June 20th they have 264,996 Facebook likes and 256,276 Facebook followers; they have 335.8K followers on a Twitter; and they have 49.9K followers on Instagram. Guys I don’t know about you, but that’s a lot of people. To think that your letter to the editor at your local newspaper could be viewed by hundreds of thousands of people is pretty cool. I’d also like to add-in that when I was working as a booking producer for my boss’s radio show, periodically we contacted people that wrote letters to the editor for guest bookings. Our show had approximately 300 – 350K listeners weekly. So yeah, that’s a whole lot more exposure right there. All of that, just for your simple 200 words or less letter. I’m not saying your letter will go viral, but that’s certainly more opportunity to spread your voice within and even outside of your community.

It doesn’t take much to write a letter to the editor. Read a few examples to get an idea of appropriate formatting. The Indivisible Trumpcare Toolkit also gives some good pointers too. Happy writing my friends!

3) Call your local senator, Republican or Democrat 

I know that texting, tweeting, and emailing you local elected officials is all the rage these days. And honestly, it’s pretty cool that we live in such a digital world where everyone from your neighbor to Kim Kardashian to your local senator are all accessible with a wifi connection. But let’s face it, in spite of virtually connecting us, the digital age in many ways has disconnected us, fragmenting our social spaces and creating more passive channels of  communication.

But as of 2017, we still live in a world where the telephone is actually a thing. I know right, so cool. That said, a congressional office typically has a small team of staffers, no more than 8-10 max. So, it doesn’t take too much manpower to overwhelm their phone systems. Gather a group of friends and have them all call your senator’s office in the same hour. You guys may not be that large in size, but the critical mass effect will definitely be noticed. Or even if you’re just acting alone, call your senator, get to know your staffers on a first name basis and demand answers from them. Tell them, “I’m a breast cancer survivor, and I’m FURIOUS that my preventive healthcare could increase” or “I’m frustrated that my breast cancer treatments could skyrocket by $30K a year.” And with the power of your voice, your concerns no longer can become swallowed in the internet/email black hole. You’re a real, tangible and audible human being reaching out to your elected official’s office. That’s democracy as its finest for you!

OK, so some of us are still a bit phone shy. After all I have to talk on the phone all day long at work, and in real life I can be quite the chatty gal, so talking on the phone for me is no big deal. But for the rest of you, you can use this guide from Bustle magazine to give you some phone prompts and overall inspiration to call your senator on your next lunch break. No biggie, right?

Lastly, I do want to quickly address that there was no typo in my section heading. Please call your senator, regardless of their political affiliation! Even though this is a Republican-backed bill, Demorats are going to have to put the pressure on the swing Republican vote. They need to be crazy active on Capitol Hill as well, so light the fire under their asses already and call them!

4) Donate or volunteer with your local Planned Parenthood chapter 

Before I dive into anything, I want to give you all my disclaimer once again. This blog is a breast cancer blog. Got it? So in terms of issues related to reproductive care and abortion rights, while I have my opinions, those opinions would never be shared on this blog. Similarly, when I talk about something polemic like Planned Parenthood, I’m speaking about it strictly as it relates to breast cancer care. So if you’re about to start hating on my blog and can’t stand the thought of me condoning Planned Parenthood in any way, please find a new blog to follow and let’s respect our differences of opinion civilly.

With that out of the way 😪 let’s get down to business. I plan on doing a deep dive on Planned Parenthood in a future post, but for now let’s talk about the facts. Planned Parenthood at this time does not conduct mammograms, which critics have called out as being misleading. However, what they will do is they’ll help refer you to a health care provider in your area ASAP that can conduct a breast health screening. Also what often happens is women will visit Planned Parenthood for other services, and while they’re there they discover they have a mysterious lump in or around their breast(s). Planned Parenthood is an indispensable resource for lower-income women, and especially those that live in rural areas with little access to affordable healthcare.

Planned Parenthood is one of the active voices on women’s healthcare leading the cruscade against the AHCA. The South a Florida chapter has a volunteer training once a month. You can also train to become a volunteer media spokesperson if you’re someone, in this case a breast cancer survivor, who’s life was saved by Planned Parenthood. Don’t want to volunteer or just don’t have time? Donate a few dollars to your affiliate chapter; the money will go a long way. And yesterday my local Planned Parenthood chapter hosted a Pink Out Day of Action including activities related to combatting the AHCA. They’re active, they’re resilient, and they’re proud of their care. So go join them, you’ll be glad you did.

5) Register to vote 

OK this sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s not. Be proactive, in your list of weekly errands one week this summer, just include ‘register to vote’ if you’re not registered. If you are registered but didn’t vote in last yesr’s federal elections, call your local division of elections to make sure you’re still registered. If you haven’t voted in the previous two federal elections, and you haven’t verified your address to your state’s Supervisor of Elections if you’ve moved, you could be marked as an ineligible voter. I don’t know if that’s true in all 50 states, but it definitely is in states like Florida. Sorry to burst your bubble, but as of right now, just because you once registered to vote doesn’t mean you’re necessarily registered for life.

Whether you realize it or not, thousands upon thousands upon thousands of Americans have died for your right to vote. If you actively choose to not vote, you’re limiting your own voice. And elections aren’t just about the president guys, you can vote on a lot of measures that are statewide, county wide, city wide or town wide. Those decisions could have a direct impact on not only your healthcare, but also on your future statewide or national leaders that will represent you. You can march and rally and call and email and text about resisting Trumpcare all day long, but if you’re not registered to vote, you’re sabotaging your own protected right to elect lawmakers that in the future won’t jeprodize your access to affordable women’s healthcare. That’s just our duty people. If this post could convince you to do one thing, and one thing only, please register to vote. Punto.

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