Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Power of Participation

“Why?” My roommate asked me when I told her I was going to Harrisburg the next day to lobby on behalf of the Healthy Youth Act and Notice Home Act.
“Why? Because lobbying is what you do when you want government change?” was my uncommitted response.

The next day, sitting in from of my Representative, offering data and statistics about how much money is wasted on abstinence-only-until-marriage ($6.7 million) and the number of teen pregnancies that occur in the Commonwealth (about 19,000), I realized something: I have so much power right now. This man has so many people telling him about different issues everyday that he likely has no time to research any of the topics himself. He depends on advocates like me and those who joined me to tell him about these issues.

This is not even the first time I have lobbied! But for some reason, it is the first time the message was clear to me about how important each citizen is to lawmaking. The Framers drafted the Constitution to include this aspect of government. They ensured that the people had a voice in how law was created and that no branch of government could silence it. No matter what form of lobbying you employ (visiting legislators, writing letters or emails, or calling their offices), you are contributing to change.

My lobbying partner and I were able to secure an immediate co-sponsor for the Notice Home Act as well as full support for both bills from a second legislator. The words we spoke compelled them to help initiate a change that will benefit thousands of students in Pennsylvania and that is a powerful thought. If (when!) these two pieces of legislation get signed into law, I believe a little piece of me will be in that signature, as well has the numerous other advocates that lobbied that day.

So that night, when I finally got home after the four hour bus ride, I was able to answer my roommate why I lobby. Why I requested off work to travel 200 miles to spend 15 minutes talking with a man I have never met before. Why I called my sister and my dad to tell them to write letters to their legislators.


Because it’s my right. Because it’s my duty. Because it’s what this country is about. You can’t get any more patriotic than that!

Shannon in Pittsburgh

*Note: The PARSE Coalition’s March 31st Lobby Day was an enormous success.
There were a total of 45 actual visits and 135 additional offices received hand-delivered packets of information from lobby day participants.

Since the lobby day 13 legislators have signed on as co-sponsors to the Healthy Youth Act. (Brown, Haluska, Harkins, Manderino, Moul, Mundy, Parker, Roebuck, Ross, Sabatina, Santoni, Walko, Wheatley)

We have had 6 legislators sign on as co-sponsors of the Notice Home Act. (Manderino, McIlvaine-Smith, Ross, Sabatina, Shapiro, and Walko)

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Y-N-T...Youth Need Truth!

Pennsylvanians for Responsible Sex Education (PARSE), a coalition of different organizations, including the ACLU of PA, sponsored a lobby day in Harrisburg yesterday in support of two new bills. The day was a great success as over 100 constituents from all over the state came and met with their legislators to advocate for the bills.

The Healthy Youth Act and the Notice Home Act, are geared towards bettering sex education policy in Pennsylvania. The Healthy Youth Act, which is sponsored by Representative Chelsa Wagner, would require the teaching comprehensive sex education in all public and public charter schools in Pennsylvania. This version of sex education would still include and stress abstinence as the only one hundred percent way to avoid pregnancy or STI contraction, however, it would also provide scientifically accurate, age-appropriate information on forms of contraceptives. The Notice Home Act would require a notice to be sent home to parents in the event that their school teaches or is having an outside instructor come in to teach an abstinence-only program, giving them the opportunity to opt their child out of the instruction. This seems especially important to anyone who has seen the antics of many of these “abstinence educators” like Derek the Clown. This bill is sponsored by former teacher, Representative Ed Pashinski.

A rally was held in the rotunda of the capitol building in Harrisburg, featuring several speakers including Jordyn Bowen, a Union City High School student who is for comprehensive sex education. Fun was had and some positive change was hopefully made! Thanks to all of those involved!

Check out a video that was taken of the event as well as a radio interview of another student.

Cassidy in Philadelphia

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