Record of Process
The first step of my Original Research project was to read the Citizen Lobbyist by Amanda Knief which provided valuable information grassroots tactics to use when lobbying to government officials as well as general activism tips. The next step was to research local legislation on the docket for the Virginia Senate and General Assembly. I found legislation that involves taking action in regards to abortion rights and reproductive justice. Then I a wrote letter that argued for the reasons to pass the legislation and further promote positive change. I came across the Reproductive Health Equity Act which would establish a system that provides comprehensive insurance coverage for the full spectrum of reproductive health services. This includes family planning, abortion, and postpartum care. It would be available for all Virginians, regardless of income, immigration status, gender identity, or type of insurance. Finding that this important legislation perfectly aligned with my thesis, I spent the most time drafting this letter, finding research from the Guttmacher Institute to back my arguments and drawing in on a true personal story, a successful tactic that was recommended in the book the Citizen Lobbyist.
I also found legislation with goals of restricting abortion access and creating stigma around the procedure. HB 1356 would require physicians to inform patients of the availability of medications to interrupt a medication-based abortion after a woman has taken medication in preparation for the procedure. If passed, this bill would create a dynamic of mistrust during the medical procedure. I wrote a letter explaining why that specific legislation should be permanently removed from the House’s docket.
I then dug deeper by researching where exactly the legislation was in the governmental process in order to search for recipients of my letters who would have the most leverage. I searched the internet for their contact information, and after revisions with my senior thesis committee, I sent out the letters.
My idea of what my original research has fluctuated through out this year. I knew that I wanted it to be action-based and I knew that I wanted to voice my opinion about abortion laws. I started brainstorming activism campaigns, potential websites, ways to volunteer at Planned Parenthood, and finally I landed on the idea of lobbying as my mode of activism. I still questioned whether writing letters were enough, if they would actually make any kind of impact at all. Though, with some concentrated thought I have found that researching legislation and the process of finding leverage points in which to effectively make my voice heard, was paving a path for my future work in a career of taking action. No longer did I view “the government” as this subjective force that citizens had no way of really being influential. I learned that if I narrowed down my focus to a particular problem there were actual concrete steps that one could follow to wiggle my opinion into the system. upon coming to that conclusion my traditional research also fell together to form a concise thesis.