Building a Pipeline of young allies in 2021
Even through the challenges that the global pandemic posed for us and our communities in 2020, our goal of innovating and building new program areas helped Men4Choice pivot effectively and fundamentally rethink the way we organize moving forward. The most impactful and successful addition to our programmatic work is the Youth/College Fellowship program, which we piloted in the summer of 2020. As an organization, our work sits at the intersection of changing culture and policy. This program provides an organizing and educational framework for young allies, and makes that mission a reality. The expansion of our youth fellowship program is a core part of our 2021-22 strategy.
In the spring of 2021, we welcomed our second cohort of male-identifying allies from across the country, while over the summer, we’ll kick-off our third multi-state cohort. Our plan for the fall is to expand the program by launching three different cohorts simultaneously – in addition to a multi-state cohort, we plan to establish our first statewide cohorts in Florida and Georgia, which will form the foundation of our in-state youth organizing program in 2021 and beyond. Catalyzed by this fellowship expansion, we will be able to activate and educate thousands of new allies and train them to mobilize into action to support our partners.
Alongside our mission to organize for change and build a pipeline of young allies, Men4Choice’s mission is to educate our base and this year, we will continue hosting our educational webinars and creating resources for allies. We have also recently launched another multi-state digital campaign where we call out the actual agenda of the anti-choice movement and legislators to control pregnant people’s bodies and lives, focusing on the onslaught of harmful anti-choice bills that are moving through various state legislatures – specifically, the outrageous spousal consent bill in Tennessee. You can learn more about our #ControlIsTheirGoal campaign here. And as always, we continue to organize our base of allies in support of our partners, including efforts to block harmful laws and pass proactive legislation (such as the effort to repeal Illinois’ harmful Forced Parental Notification Act)
Expanding Impact and Innovating in 2020
Needless to say, 2020 didn’t go quite as expected. Our communities were hit hard by the pandemic and we were forced to rethink the way we organize and build community. While we had been planning to expand our on-the-ground organizing outside of Illinois to Florida and Georgia, the pandemic made that impossible. The anti-choice movement, however, did not stop their attacks in the midst of this public health crisis, so we had to innovate to meet this moment and fight back.
In 2020, we launched an incredibly successful multi-state digital campaign that called out the bullsh*t and hypocrisy of anti-choice bad actors. Our content was viewed more than 20 million times in 2020 alone and over 10,000 allies took online action with us as we supported partner campaigns to push back against abortion restriction and bans. Tens of thousands of people visited our newly launched website every month, more than 3,000 downloaded our brand new “Starter Kit” for pro-choice allies just during our launch, and we added more than 15,000 new allies to our membership (across various platforms). Men4Choice now has members in every state, with over 100 people in 25 states.
We hosted more than 40 virtual events and 35 community conversations bringing men in for meaningful dialogue around the reproductive rights, abortion access, misogyny and sexism, and organizing for change. Our events were attended by over 1,000 people. Finally, perhaps our most exciting and valuable innovation was the launch of our virtual fellowship program for youth/college-aged allies that is going to be a centerpiece of our programmatic work moving forward. Most importantly, we showed up for our 26 partners and took action to support their missions. We co-hosted 21 different GOTV events (through our 501(c)4 organization, Men4Choice Advocacy), recruited more than 150 allies to volunteer for the 2020 elections, and contacted over 180,000 voters across 6 states.
2020 was a challenging and devastating year on so many fronts and it will take us a while to heal and rebuild from it. However, our small but nimble team was able to take the challenge of remote organizing head on and grow our impact through innovation and focusing on building capacity for our partners and in our target states. Read more about our work in 2020 here.
The Reproductive Health Act in 2019
In 2019, the RHA Coalition focused on passing the Reproductive Health Act, which would remove abortion from the Illinois Criminal Code and codify abortion as healthcare and a fundamental right in Illinois. Despite electing the biggest pro-choice majority in Illinois history in 2018, when it came time to pass the RHA, the bill had stalled in the legislature and it seemed it would not even get a vote in committee, let alone on the floor of the State House .
Men4Choice worked with partners across the state to develop a powerful digital campaign and organizing plan to build awareness around the RHA. We focused on storytelling to center and elevate the voices of those most impacted and highlighting the real threats to Illinois residents in a post-Roe world if we didn’t pass the RHA.
As a part of our organizing plan with coalition partners, we amplified and mobilized a powerful direct action and lobby day in Springfield. Videos we produced from that action went viral and reached more than 400,000 people on social media, helping shift the narrative around RHA. With the tireless work of so many brave leaders the RHA was passed in the final days of the legislative session.
In a year that saw so many devastating abortion restrictions passed in states across the country, Illinois was able to expand reproductive freedom. Men4Choice was proud to show up as partners and allies in this historic fight!
Community Organizing in 2018
In 2018, Men4Choice joined the fight to expand the pro-choice majority in the Illinois legislature. We organized dozens of events across the state in the spring and summer to educate, train, and recruit volunteers to go canvassing. In the fall, we focused on 11 legislative districts and held 17 days of action, mobilizing hundreds of members to knock doors. 8 of those districts ended up electing pro-choice candidates, including 4 districts who voted out anti-choice incumbents in favor of pro-choice women candidates. Of the more than 260 volunteers Men4Choice recruited to canvass their communities in support of reproductive freedom, 47% were male allies. That work, which primarily focused on areas not traditionally known as pro-choice strongholds, went as far west as Moline (near the Iowa border) and as far south as Edwardsville (near the Missouri border).
We helped to fundamentally change the makeup of our state legislature which has led to huge victories in 2019, on reproductive healthcare policies and other progressive issues.
Passing House Bill 40 in 2017
In 2017, coalition of reproductive rights organizations in Illinois set out to pass HB40, a bill that would fix trigger language in the Illinois Criminal Code which could have made abortion illegal if/when Roe v. Wade gets overturned. The bill also ensured that women who worked for the state government could use their state-provided insurance coverage to terminate a pregnancy if they chose to.
Finally, the bill addressed a major inequity in healthcare policy, by requiring Medicaid to cover abortions in Illinois, ensuring low income people have the same reproductive healthcare options as wealthier people do.
When the bill stalled in the Illinois State House, Men4Choice partnered with the coalition to develop a field strategy and coordinated a massive organizing campaign. We organized more than 40 phone bank locations across the state to make over 75,000 calls to state legislators, and turned out hundreds of volunteers to go door-to-door canvassing over 12 days of action. All of this work was funded by male allies only.
The bill ultimately passed both chambers of the Illinois legislature, but the fight didn’t end there. Over the summer and fall, Illinois’ Governor, Bruce Rauner, threatened to veto the bill. Men4Choice sprung into action, and in partnership with Personal PAC, designed and launched a digital campaign to hold the Governor accountable. Thanks to sustained pressure from dozens of organizations and hundreds of activists, in September 2017 HB40 was signed into law.