On January 20, 2017, we watched as people trickled onto the National Mall to listen to Donald Trump articulate his dark vision for America. For many of us in Massachusetts who campaigned heavily for a platform of hope and equality, the 2017 Inauguration was not what we expected. Even worse, the event made many feel that our work had been for naught.
January 21 proved that feeling was, in fact, just a feeling. Waves of people in pink hats gathered across America. An estimated 175,000 flooded the Boston Common alone, coalescing around our vision for America—inclusive, safe, and free.
The Women’s March was the perfect kick-off for our year of resistance. At the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts (PPAF), we doubled down on our state legislative agenda, knocked on thousands of doors for state and local candidates, and took to the streets to protect access to health care. This past year has been incredibly challenging, making us all the more proud of what we accomplished here in Massachusetts. Below are some of the highlights from 2017:
1. We advocated for proactive state policies
Now more than ever, state policy matters. As the Trump Administration hatched plans to restrict health care access and undermine reproductive rights on the federal level, we pursued proactive policies to protect and improve the health and rights of Massachusetts residents.
At the end of January, we convened over 500 advocates at the Massachusetts State House as part of our Sexual Health Lobby Day. These advocates demanded swift action on our three priority bills which would protect no copay birth control, strengthen patient confidentiality, and ensure comprehensive sex education. The overwhelming support for these bills – both inside and outside the State House – is a sign that Massachusetts can and should continue to be a leader on health care access and equal rights.
2. We rallied to stop national “defunding” attacks
In response to federal efforts to “defund” Planned Parenthood health centers and cut patients off from basic, preventive care, thousands of people rallied at the Boston Common in March in the freezing cold. Speakers like Congressman Joe Kennedy, Mayor Marty Walsh, Planned Parenthood patients, and coalition partners called on Congress to stop these attacks and put patients ahead of politics.
Just before the rally, and two days after PPAF met with Governor Baker, he publicly pledged the state would protect health care access for Planned Parenthood patients in Massachusetts and step in if Congress and President Trump ever “defunded” Planned Parenthood nationally.
3. We elected local champions
In 2017, local leaders were important voices for patients, expanded health care access, and communities under attack by the Trump administration. Energized, we expanded our efforts to elect local champions and campaigned for more municipal candidates than ever before. In support of candidates in Boston, Worcester, and Springfield, our advocates knocked over 10,000 doors and phoned nearly 10,000 voters. In Boston, six women of color were elected to the City Council, all having received our endorsement. The grassroots energy in 2017 was nothing short of inspiring.
4. We stood in solidarity with our allies
In the Trump era, it is critical we stand in solidarity with all of those impacted by this administration’s devastating attacks on women, immigrants, the LGBTQ community, people of color, and people with low-incomes. In 2017, we lent our support to a wider variety of state legislation than ever before, including paid family leave, an immigrant and refugee bill entitled the Safe Communities Act, and Lift the Cap on Kids MA. We spoke out for racial justice and participated in events centered on youth advocacy, the LGBTQ movement, and immigrant rights. Their fights are our fights, and we will continue to stand in solidarity with them in the future.
5. We protected birth control access for Massachusetts residents
When the Trump Administration gutted the Affordable Care Act’s birth control protections, the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund worked tirelessly to protect access to affordable contraception coverage in Massachusetts. Calls and emails from PPAF supporters flooded the State House, demanding swift passage of the ACCESS bill. Our advocacy paid off, and in November, Governor Baker signed the ACCESS bill into law.
This new law protects and expands birth control coverage in our state and demonstrated yet again— we will fight back and we will win.
In 2017, not only did we resist, but we actually made progress. As advocates in the fight for reproductive rights, we know all too well that positive change takes intense time and effort. And we know that we can never stop fighting for what we believe in.
This year reminded us, that in the grand scheme of our movement, we must always play the long game. We must always push forward at every level of government, with every tool at our disposal, to protect and expand the rights of everyone. Thank you for being a part of this movement – and thank you for standing with us in the fights ahead.