The Reproductive Health Circle exists to reshape the national conversation on reproductive health, as well as broader issues around women’s health. Our work has had two major goals:
- Develop affirmational, values-based language that broadens our conversations around reproductive and other health issues without compromising support for abortion rights.
- Build on voter support for policy advances on a broader agenda that includes access to birth control, emergency contraception, comprehensive sexuality education, the HPV vaccine, stem cell research and end-of-life issues.
In 2005, WDN’s Reproductive Health Circle partnered with the Communications Consortium Media Center (CCMC) to launch Moving Forward – a multi-year, multi-million dollar research and strategic communications project. Seventy-six WDN donors have supported this work, raising about $1 million that has leveraged over $2 million from partner foundations.
Moving Forward began with a multi-faceted research project to create a set of frames and messages that were found to be most effective in changing the tone of conversations around reproductive health and other health issues. As the venue for fights around reproductive and other health issues evolved, the Moving Forward project successfully worked in different arenas to fight for women’s access to a full range of health care. The Moving Forward Project has had many successes, including:
- Leading an effort to recast the language of the national reproductive health debate in a way that reclaims the center and resonates with a very large and bipartisan group of Americans.
- Contributing to the defeat of several pernicious state ballot initiatives, such as Colorado’s State Amendment 48, a 2008 “personhood” initiative that sought to give fetuses full human rights;
- Participating in shaping the health care debate that led to the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA);
- Promoting the 2011 “well-woman” regulatory standards at the Department of Health and Human Services that embedded contraception and family planning in the critical and cost-effective basic care that insurance companies must provide for women across their lifespan;
- Providing a persuasive way to assure policymakers that the public really does favor explicit support for comprehensive sex education and birth control; and
- Expanding the focus of public debate to include related fields such as maternal health and end-of-life care and decision-making.
Now, our work is focused on big megaphone strategies that can reach large numbers of women (and the men in their lives), taking advantage of new social media tools, and organizing them for long-term engagement. We have partnered with a new online organizing entity, UltraViolet, and in early 2012 the WDN Reproductive Health Circle became their first funder to help them get off the ground and begin campaigning to make birth control a focus issue. For more updates on our current strategies, please visit the Blog.
Our key finding from Moving Forward was that in order to garner broad support, the conversation should begin with a broad frame that covers the critical issues at stake, including but not leading with abortion. This learning has been applied in numerous settings: the fight against the personhood amendments in Colorado; the national debate on health care; and the fight to protect Planned Parenthood.
We also were aware from our research that often those that opposed abortion were also against anything that reduced unintended pregnancies. While this group represents only 20% of the voting public, recent votes taken by the House of Representatives suggests that the majority of the House holds these positions.
In our ongoing work, we see numerous threats (in Medicaid, Title X and the new Affordable Care Act) to full information and access around birth control and broader reproductive health agenda. We will continue to modify our message and reframe to address these threats and to out those who are against all strategies to reduce unintended pregnancies as extremist and out of sync with the American voter. Strategies include: reframing and messaging; stakeholder education; media placements; and message dissemination including links to grassroots groups and use of social media.