It’s amazing how technology has allowed us to become more informed about issues that matter to us. Every day, my inbox is flooded with women’s reproductive health news from around the world! Additionally, I receive many e-petitions to sign about various current events-ranging from human rights to reproductive issues to international assaults.
I, like a good e-activist, read about the issue at hand and e-sign my name to the petition or send off the pre-made email to my Senators and Congress Representatives. Done. My voice will be heard. Or will it?
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I recently learned an interesting lesson from a very unlikely person-an anti-choice conservative Senator from North Dakota. After the North Dakota House passed the Personhood Bill (HB 1572), I decided to contact the North Dakota Senators to urge them to vote no and to inform them of the extreme dangers this bill could put on women and their health.
Doing some research online, I found another activist who had already written a plea to the Senators. She not only supplied the email message she had used, but she also listed all the North Dakota Senator’s email addresses. Thus, I copied her email, put in all the Senator’s addresses, and sent it off through cyberspace. All in all, I felt the content of the message was ok, not exactly how I would have phrased it, but it took me less than 5 minutes to spread the message. I did add one small addition after my name: “Medical Student.” E-mail sent and e-activism done!
Not quite. I received an email back from one Senator saying:
“It makes me sad with a person of your educational background does just cut and paste a template email. Your voice will have much more impact if you are original and tell people your personal beliefs rather than just use someone else’s words.”
When I first received his email, I used a bunch of excuses for not writing an email myself-I’m so busy, he’s probably against this bill, etc. But he was right. I really didn’t have a good reason for not taking the time to use my own words, my own voice for an issue that was extremely important to me. In the next week, I sat down and wrote another email to the Senators. However, this time I wrote from the perspective of a future medical provider and Obstetrician/Gynecologist. I wrote “as a provider, my priority is the patient who sits in front of me, speaks, breathes, and feels. Focusing on the fetus as a separate human being could potentially force me to provide less than adequate care to my patient.”
The response from the Senators was overwhelming-both positive and negative. This time, however, I felt much more confident and proud of my e-activism. My voice was heard and it seemed many more Senators actually read what I had to say.
On April 4th, 2009 the bill was defeated in the Senate by a 29 to 16 vote. I would like to believe that maybe my email and my message was floating around in those Senator’s heads when they voted.
E-Activism is a powerful tool to fight for issues you strongly believe in, but don’t let your own voice get lost. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge proponent of emailing and signing online petitions, but don’t forget how much weight a personal email can hold. Email your representatives, attend lobbying events, and call your leaders on issues that are important to you. Stay active and be vocal!
And thank you to the Republican North Dakota Senator who taught me a very valuable lesson.