You can become a part of the pro-choice movement. Protect a women’s right to choose by supporting women and the providers who make choice a reality. It is becoming increasingly important that we work to ensure that abortion remains safe, legal, and accessible for generations to come. Join us in this important fight and get involved!

Celebrate more than three decades of the right to choose with our Activist Checklist. There is something for everyone – get involved in your community, school, or place of worship to make an important difference in the lives of women.

In Everyday Life

At Your School

  • Tell your friends and student health services about the NAF Hotline 1-800-772-9100
  • Write an article for the student paper
  • Join or start your own chapter of Students for Choice
  • Make sure student health services provides Emergency Contraception

In Your Community

  • Write an op-ed for your local newspaper
  • Contact your elected representatives (state and federal)
  • Submit a positive resolution regarding Roe v. Wade to your city council
  • Join your school board and support comprehensive sex education
  • Contact your Yellow Pages about accurately advertising Crisis Pregnancy Centers, i.e. they should not be listed under abortion

In Your Faith

  • Join a pro-choice religious group
  • Find out if your religion has an official position on choice
  • Learn more about the morality of choice
  • Bring pro-choice materials to your religious community
  • Write something for your religious newsletter
  • Support comprehensive sex education

Support the Providers and Clinics

  • Raise money for low-income women to obtain abortions
  • Send a thank you note to a local clinic
  • Escort women at a local clinic
  • Volunteer at the clinic
  • Sponsor an advertisement
  • Organize a party for the staff
  • Send a letter to the editor supporting the clinic

So you’re ready to volunteer in your community. Great! We encourage you to read through our online resources for ideas on how to get involved and have a positive impact by helping the pro-choice movement and the many women who appreciate your support.

Some common ways to volunteer:

  • Escort at your local clinic
  • Host women who come to your community for abortion care
  • Help a local abortion fund
  • Babysit for children at your local clinic
  • Arrange a fundraiser for a clinic or local fund
  • Participate in local protests or marches
  • Offer any special skills such as computer programming or community education and outreach
  • Call your local clinic and ask if you can help

Many of these pro-choice organizations have chapters in your area that would serve as a good starting point in getting involved on the local level.

ACLU

NARAL Pro-Choice America

Planned Parenthood

Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice

It doesn’t take long to get involved. You can make a difference in just five minutes. Here’s what you can do to help ensure safe, legal, and accessible abortion care to promote health and justice for women.

Our government is based on a federalist system which divides all decision-making between an executive branch, a legislative branch, and a judicial branch. This balance of power, which allows for checks and balances between branches of government, operates at both the national (federal) and state levels.

At the federal level, the legislative branch or U.S. Congress consists of two houses, the U.S. House of Representatives (435 members) and the U.S. Senate (100 members). Members of the House serve for a two-year term; Senators for a six-year term. Every two years, prior to the beginning of a new Congressional cycle, elections are held for all House seats and one-third of the Senate seats. A Congress is divided into two sessions, each lasting one year. For example, 2004 represents the 108th Congress, 2nd session.

You can influence the political process by understanding the legislative process and taking action.

You may impact legislation along the way by:

  1. providing information and materials to legislators who will introduce the bill;
  2. testifying at Congressional hearings;
  3. contacting subcommittee and committee members before a mark-up session;
  4. communicating with Members of Congress before a House or Senate floor vote;
  5. writing to the President to indicate your position on an Act of Congress; or
  6. submitting comments to the federal agency responsible for implementing a new law before the final regulations are published.

The following is an example of the typical path of legislation in Congress.

Bill Introduced in House or Senate

Early in the year, the President of the United States delivers a message to Congress, usually in three parts: State of the Union, Budget Message, and Economic Message. These messages give the President’s ideas for new laws, and may be followed up by specific bills (proposed laws) introduced in Congress by members of the House and/or Senate.

A bill may originate in either house of Congress. Each session of Congress considers and passes judgment on thousands of bills. On average, about 15,000 bills and resolutions are introduced in a Congress, but only about 600 become law during the two-year period.

Bill Referred to Committee

After being introduced and assigned an appropriate number by the presiding officer, the bill is referred to a specific committee(s) with jurisdiction over the proposed legislation. Bills are numbered sequentially during the two-year period of a Congress. Senate bills are designated S., (e.g., S. 230) and House bills, H.R. (e.g. H.R. 536), always with a different number.

There are 22 standing committees in the House and 16 in the Senate, as well as several “Select” and “Special” committees. Membership ratios on committees between majority and minority parties are determined at the beginning of a two-year Congressional cycle. The member representing the majority party and having the most years as a member (seniority) is usually designated “chairperson.” The most senior member of the minority party is usually designated “ranking minority member.” The caucus of their party assigns members to committees and these assignments are confirmed by a floor vote.

As advocates for choice, most of your attention will be focused on the activities of the committees and subcommittees from which a majority of abortion-related legislation originates.

Bill Referred to Subcommittee

Once a committee receives a bill, it will usually assign it to an even more specialized subcommittee. The chairperson has the power to report out (approve) the bill, or allow it to “die” in the subcommittee.

Congressional Hearings

When a committee or subcommittee considers a bill, it may first hold a hearing to allow experts and representatives of interest groups to provide testimony. Prior to the hearing, the subcommittee may also ask the General Accounting Office and affected federal agencies to comment on the proposed legislation. These comments are cleared by the Office of Management and Budget to assure that they are consistent with the President’s overall program. After a hearing, all testimony is compiled and published in the Committee Hearing Report.

Subcommittee Mark-Up Session

Next, the subcommittee will hold a mark-up session, during which time amendments are offered which can change the meaning of the bill. After the subcommittee has completed its “mark-up,” the bill is voted on. If it is approved, it is reported out to the full committee for further action.

Committee Mark-Up and Vote

After consideration by a subcommittee, the full committee holds a mark-up session where further changes or amendments to the bill are considered and voted on. The committee then votes on whether to order the bill reported to the House or Senate. If the vote is in the affirmative, then an official version of the bill is prepared that contains all the changes approved by the committee.

Committee Formulates a Report

After the committee approves a bill, it formulates a Committee Report. This Report describes the bill and the committee’s reasons for specific provisions in the legislation. It is written by committee staff and approved by the members. The Report is significant because it is used widely by other legislators and lobbyists to determine the meaning of a bill, and later by federal agencies that use the report to interpret the intent of the bill should it become public law.

Bill Goes to Floor of House or Senate for a Vote

Once approved by the committee, the bill goes to the floor of either the House or Senate for a vote. In the House, the Rules Committee sets the order for bills to be debated, the time limit for debate, and what, if any, amendments will be allowed. Both houses have certain procedures and rules to assist in managing the consideration of a bill on the floor.

Generally, bills are voted on and either approved or rejected at the conclusion of floor debate. Once a bill has been approved, an official copy of the bill is prepared (“engrossed”) and signed by the presiding officer, and forwarded to the other legislative house. At this point the bill is now an “act” and is usually referred to the committee of jurisdiction for consideration.

Conference Committee Action

After both houses have approved similar bills, they are assigned to a Conference Committee made up of Senators and Representatives from the committees of jurisdiction, whose responsibility is to reconcile the differences in the House and Senate versions of the bill. After consensus is reached, a Conference Report is prepared to explain the agreements that were reached.

Consideration of Conference Report by Congress

After the Conference Report is filed it is sent back to the House and Senate for approval. Amendments to a Conference Report are not permitted; members can only reject or approve it. In most cases, both houses accept decisions of the Conference Committee and the Conference Report is approved, usually by a voice vote. The bill is then sent to the President.

From the Legislative House to the White House

After Congress has approved a bill, it may take several days or weeks before it reaches the White House. The President has three choices of action on a new bill. If he signs the bill, it becomes public law. If he does not sign the bill within ten working days after he receives it, it automatically becomes law as long as Congress is in session. The President can “pocket veto” the bill when Congress adjourns before the ten days are up. The pocket veto only occurs when Congress is adjourning at the end of its second biennial session, not during the interim recess.

The President’s third option is to veto (reject) the bill. It takes a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress to override a presidential veto. If Congress is successful in overriding the veto, the bill becomes law.

When a bill becomes law, it is given a new “Public Law” number and the Government Printing Office (GPO) publishes the official text. All public laws are numbered to reflect the Congress which created the law (e.g., P.L. 100-98 means the 98th law enacted during the 100th Congress).

Development of Regulations

The Executive Branch through its federal agencies or departments is responsible for developing regulations to implement a new law. Generally, the agency that is affected by the law will propose regulations based on the intent of the law as stated in the Committee Report. The proposed regulations are published in the Federal Register and public comments are accepted before the rules become final. Regulations have the full force of law.

Visits to Capitol Hill or to local district offices to meet with legislators are an incredibly effective way to convey your support for reproductive rights. Below are some suggestions to make the most out of your meeting.

Do

  • DO make an appointment. All Members of Congress have offices in their districts, and Senators usually have two or three throughout the state. Legislators can usually be found in their district offices while Congress is in recess. NAF’s Act for Choice page can give you Congressional schedules and office locations.
  • DO prepare a packet of information to leave behind; if it’s not written down, assume it won’t be remembered. Use NAF’s facts about abortionpolicy resources, and useful links.
  • DO be brief and be focused. Be clear about the specific actions you want your legislator to take. Do you want the legislator to sign a letter? Vote a certain way on a bill? Make that clear.
  • DO be accessible to staff. They are the nerve center of the office; make sure they know what a great resource you are as a constituent.
  • DO follow up! Send a letter of thanks to the office. This is your opportunity to mention issues that weren’t brought up in the meeting, and to invite the legislator to upcoming events.

Don’t

  • DON’T be argumentative or confrontational.Respectability and persistence are the keys to making your voice heard.
  • DON’T be afraid to make it personal. Talk about how reproductive rights affect you.
  • DON’T feel you have to know everything.Know when to say “I don’t know,” and offer to find the answer and follow up.
  • DON’T hesitate to ask for clarification. It’s not enough for a staff person to tell you that the legislator “supports the right to choose.” If you’re not satisfied with an answer, say so.
  • DON’T take legislators’ positions for granted. Be appreciative of legislators who have supported reproductive rights in the past; let them know how much their support means to you.
  • DON’T fail to maintain contact with the office. Get the staff person’s name who works on abortion issues and use them as your primary contact.

Learn More

Often we find ourselves discussing important topics wishing that we had more information at our fingertips. We can make it easy to understand and discuss abortion both as an issue and as an integral aspect of reproductive health care so you can speak with authority in your daily life. Be Pro-Choice and Proud.