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Students take part in Capitol Hill Days

Courtesy+of+Brian+DixonA+group+of+UA+students+took+part+in+Capitol+Hill+Days+in+Washington.+The+focus+of+the+event+was+family+planning+and+had+emphasis+on+laws+and+advocacy.

Courtesy of Brian Dixon

A group of UA students took part in Capitol Hill Days in Washington. The focus of the event was family planning and had emphasis on laws and advocacy.

The past five days have been a flurry of activity for UA students attending Capitol Hill Days in Washington. The purpose of the advocacy event, put on by Population Connection, is family planning.

There were 200 activists from 31 states in attendance. Attendees lobbied Congress for increased funding and support for family planning, both internationally and at home.

Advocacy training was a large part of the program, as attendees were given information on pressing issues involving family planning, such as the Global Gag Rule and the Helms Amendment. These were presented by several organizations fighting the same issues, such as the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the National Women’s Law Center.

“Capitol Hill Days provides participants with the tools and knowledge to go out into the world as fully fledged family planning activists,” said Elspeth Dehnert, media relations manager for Population Connection. “There are millions of people around the world who are being denied access to contraception, real sex education and reproductive health services, and they need our support.”

Population Connection is an organization dedicated to providing family planning to the 225 million women who don’t have access to modern contraception. They strive to eliminate the Global Gag Rule and petition the Helms Amendment.

The Global Gag Rule is a controversial ruling that prevents foreign non governmental organizations from discussing abortion with clients and blocks U.S. funding to family planning provider programs around the world. While the Bill Clinton and Barack Obama administrations have repealed the ruling, the threat of its return is always present, and no permanent stop to the ruling has been issued.

The Helms Amendment, passed in 1973, states, “No foreign assistance funds may be used to pay for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions,” according to the Center for Health and Gender Equality.

Education is another goal of Population Connection — for which the Capitol Hill Days event was created — and has been growing. Last year, 140 activists were in attendance; this year, 200 activists participated.

“Population Connection is encouraged and humbled by the commitment that these young activists bring to our cause,” said John Seager, the president of Population Connection and its political arm, Population Connection Action Fund.

Students attending will have the knowledge and training to get their voices heard when it comes to speaking about and dealing with these issues.

“For months leading up to the event, our dedicated field team spent countless hours reaching out to college campuses around the U.S. in the hopes of bringing as many students as possible to our nation’s capital,” Dehnert said. “The direction of our country’s future is dependent on our youth, and Population Connection is thrilled that so many young people, including [UA] students, decided to attend Capitol Hill Days 2015.”

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Follow Erik Kolsrud on Twitter.

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