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How to Take Action During Recess

Multiple times a year, members of Congress return home to their districts during a congressional break, which is commonly referred to as a recess. While they’re home, they typically hold public events like town halls so they can connect with constituents. Recess is the perfect time for activists like you to tell your members of Congress just what you think about their stances on issues that matter most to you, like reproductive rights and health care access.

Below is a step-by-step guide on how you can take action.

Have questions? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us at [email protected].

BEFORE YOU START

1. Don’t Know Who Your Representatives Are?

Use our look-up tool. Just type in your zip code.

Find My Rep.

2. What's Their Record?

Before you take any actions, it's important to know your representative’s stance on reproductive health issues. 

Go to Scorecard

3. Find or Plan Local Events

Check out our event map. If there aren’t any local events listed, then add yours!

Find Events

Organize a crew to join you.
Plan a meetup!

Pick a date for your meetup, ideally at least a week before the recess action, but a shorter lead time is okay if it’s the only thing that works!

Find a place to host the event. Look for a free space that will accommodate the number of people you think will attend. Here are a few ideas: your house, a coffee shop, the library, your place of worship, or your local recreation center.

Make a list of 20 people to invite, then give them a call or send a text to invite them. If you don’t have that many people to invite, invite as many as you can and ask them all to bring two friends! The more people, the better.

Don’t forget to ask them to bring a laptop or tablet so they can write a letter to the editor!

Hold Your Meetup!

Plan for your meetup to take about an hour, but it’s okay if it’s longer or shorter. Don’t forget to bring extra paper and pens, and print out our letter to the editor guide so folks can write letters to the editor.

A sample agenda is below:

Sample Agenda

Attendance (5 min)

  • Have a sign-in sheet for folks to put down their name, number, and email.

  • Ask attendees to text "MEETUP" to 22422 so we can see how many people are getting involved. This will add them to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund Mobile Network. (They will receive a message giving them the option to unsubscribe from updates if they need to.)

Icebreaker (10 min). These can go a long way! Here are a few ideas:

  • Ask each person to say who or what they're fighting for, or what brought them here today. You might be surprised at the variety and depth of people’s answers.

  • Ask attendees to raise their hand if they or a friend has ever visited a Planned Parenthood health center. You can also ask attendees to share why Planned Parenthood matters to them personally.

Explain why this action is important (5 min)

  • For example, if you’re hosting a recess action in honor of May 4, make sure to explain that it’s the one-year anniversary of the House vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). And while grassroots organizing saved the ACA, our access to sexual and reproductive health care is still under attack.

Plan what kind of event you’ll have (10 min)

Start planning what your action will look like! Go through these questions one by one, such as:

  • What is your rep’s stance on the ACA and access to health care?

  • Can everyone make it to the office?

  • How are you arriving there? Driving, bus, carpool?

  • Who is bringing signs? Who is taking photos? Who is going to be in your video?

Write letters to the editor (20 min)

Letters to the editor (LTE) are the best way to reach your reps and their staff. They closely follow what their constituents are writing about them in the local paper. If everyone at the meetup writes and submits an LTE, you’re sure to catch your rep’s attention! Our LTE guide (below) includes a printable handout that will make it quick and easy for everyone to write an LTE.

Make some signs (5 min)

Signs are the best way to get your message across in photos and videos, so get creative! A few ideas: I Stand With Planned Parenthood; health care for all; our bodies, our choice; one year later, I’m still watching.

Closing (5 min)

Thank everyone, remind folks to submit their LTEs, and end with a cheer! Here’s one to get started: “When our bodies are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!”

Hold Your Recess Action!

  • Register an event on the events tool so your friends and Planned Parenthood supporters can find and join your recess action! It's easy: just add in your event date, time, location, and a short description of how you'll take action!
  • Remember to print out a copy of your talking points and head to your rep’s office.

  • When you get there, snap some photos of you and your crew to show the power of our movement and to let our reps know that we are watching.

  • Take a video while you’re there! Have a friend film video of you outside your rep's office (make sure to hold the phone horizontally). Check out the appropriate talking points below to get some inspiration!

  • Remember that some offices don’t allow photos or videos to be taken inside -- if that’s the case you can take them outside instead.

  • Post to social (duh) with the hashtag #StandWithPP. We want to help amplify your work, so tag Planned Parenthood Action Fund on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Tumblr.

  • Don’t forget to send us your pics and stories from your recess action! Email them to [email protected].

Talking Points

You’ll want to be prepared for any recess by having talking points. Use these talking points for a May 4 recess action as inspiration for your action.

If your rep is with us on health care...

One year ago, anti-women’s health members of Congress voted on and passed a bill that would have stripped access to health care for millions of people. The measure, which sought to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and would have blocked millions from accessing birth control, cancer screenings, and other basic health care at Planned Parenthood health centers.

Trumpcare, in each if its iterations, was the worst bill for women’s health in a generation.

I am proud to have Rep. NAME on my side to vote AGAINST this horrible bill. On May 4, 2017, Rep. NAME took a vote to stand with people like me and those in my community who deserve access to health care wherever we want.

Because of you, the Affordable Care Act is still law of the land and Planned Parenthood health centers are open to millions of people for cancer screenings, STI tests, contraception, and abortion. Thank you for supporting what is most important to our community.

Now, programs like Medicaid, the teen pregnancy prevention program and the nation’s program for affordable birth control are under attack. Please stand with us to protect them.

We won’t stop until every woman, person of color, immigrant, LGBTQ person, and others being targeted by Congress and the Trump-Pence administration can control their bodies and their lives.

If your rep is against us on health care... 

One year ago, Rep. NAME voted for a bill that would have stripped access to health care for millions of people by repealing the Affordable Care Act. It would have also blocked millions from accessing birth control, cancer screenings, and other basic health care at Planned Parenthood health centers.

Trumpcare, in each if its iterations, was the worst bill for women’s health in a generation. I have not forgotten that Rep. NAME ignored our voices and voted FOR the worst bill for women’s health in a generation. On May 4, 2017, Rep. NAME took a vote for your own ideology that would have denied health care to millions of people.

Now, programs like Medicaid, the teen pregnancy prevention program and the nation’s program for affordable birth control are under attack. If Rep. NAME attacks these programs, we will not forget.

We won’t stop until every woman, person of color, immigrant, LGBTQ person, and others being targeted by Congress and the Trump-Pence administration can control their bodies and their lives.

 

If your rep opposed the bill but has a negative record on health care...

Rep. NAME record on attacking access to health care for people and attacks on Planned Parenthood shows how they have continued to vote against health care and Planned Parenthood on other votes.

Rep. NAME, you can’t hide behind one vote and then continue to work to block access to health care for millions of people with every other vote.

We have to keep fighting to make sure everyone gets the health care they want or need, without politicians controlling when, how, or why. Our bodies are our own --- if they are not, we cannot truly be free or equal.

We won’t stop until every woman, person of color, immigrant, LGBTQ person and others being targeted by Congress and the Trump-Pence administration can control their bodies and their lives.

On the anniversary of a horrible bill passing the House, I want to remind you that I’m still watching. The extreme agenda from the Trump-Pence Administration and leaders in Congress was out of touch and deeply unpopular then and it still is now. Protect access to health care and stop attacking women’s health care access to places like Planned Parenthood.

Writing a Strong Letter to the Editor as Part of Your Recess Action

A letter to the editor (LTE) is just that — a letter written to a newspaper to offer a newsworthy opinion or in response to a previously published article. LTEs are a powerful and free way to communicate with decision-makers and your community.

Follow the steps below to write your letter to the editor. Make sure your letter reflects where your rep stands on health care, and remember: thank the champs, thump the chumps!

Steps to write your letter to the editor (LTE)

  1. Look up your local paper to see what their guidelines are for LTEs and how you submit them (is it via online submission form, email, or snail mail?).

  2. Draft your LTE! Aim to keep it below 200 words. See our tips and talking points (below) for more guidance!

  3. Submit your LTE and keep your eyes peeled. Check the paper for the next week or so to see if you got published, and post your letter with the tag #StandWithPP on Facebook and Twitter, and send it to us at [email protected]. Just a heads up: a staffer from the paper may call you if they plan on publishing your letter.

Quick tips for writing and submitting LTEs

  • Stick to the facts in the talking points below to keep your letter on-topic. This isn’t the time to throw in the kitchen sick about other issues, even if they’re important to you!

  • Make it personal. The more personal, the more likely it is to get published. Share why this issue impacts you and explain why you care about it.

  • The nitty-gritty: LTEs should generally be 200 words or less, but check the specific newspaper’s policy to confirm. And don’t forget to include all of your contact info!

Talking points for a recess letter to the editor

Pick 1-2 talking points to highlight, but make sure not to copy word-for-word. Newspapers want to hear what YOU have to say!

Here are some examples.

  • One year ago, anti-women’s health members voted on and passed a bill that would have stripped access to health care for millions of people by repealing the Affordable Care Act and blocked millions from accessing birth control, cancer screenings, and other basic health care at Planned Parenthood health centers.

  • Trumpcare, in each if its iterations, was the worst bill for women’s health in a generation.

  • Because of people like me  and Planned Parenthood’s 11 million supporters   the various iterations of Trumpcare eventually failed to pass in Congress. And now, I’m fired up to make sure that no one forgets what anti-women’s health members in Congress tried to do.

  • On the anniversary of a horrible bill passing the House, I want to remind you that I’m still watching. The extreme agenda from the Trump-Pence Administration and anti-women’s Health leaders in Congress is out of touch and deeply unpopular then and it still is now.

  • Now programs like Medicaid, teen pregnancy prevention programs and the nation’s program for affordable birth control are under attack. If Rep. NAME attacks these programs we won’t forget.

  • Protect access to health care and stop attacking women’s health care access to places like Planned Parenthood.

Have questions? Reach out to us at [email protected].