You should approach potential legislators as soon as they indicate any interest in running for office. You will probably never have a better opportunity to educate a politician on Pro-Life issues as when he is seeking office for the first time and developing his initial position on these issues.
At least once a year, and more often if necessary, the local Pro-Life leadership should make a formal appointment with an incumbent representative. It is important, as Pro-Life leaders, to rehearse what you will say before the meeting, clearly defining what each person attending the meeting must say.
Following the guidelines below will enhance the effectiveness of your meetings.
- Know your legislator: You should be thoroughly familiar with the legislator’s voting record on the life issues. You should also know the legislator’s political history and his relationship with the Pro-Life movement in the district.
- Be on time: Always make a formal appointment and be on time.
- Be respectful: Be calm, reasonable, respectful, and politely firm. Threats or open antagonism are counterproductive and not helpful.
- Be focused: Cover the topics you planned to discuss first, before any small talk. Some lawmaker may lead the conversation off into tangents.
- Provide evidence: Provide legislators with objective evidence demonstrating widespread support for the Pro-Life position in their district. This could include polls, Volunteer Identification Program results, or growth in the membership of the local Pro-Life chapter. Also provide legislators with the arguments in support of the Pro-Life position. Legislators are not only interested in the political ramifications of their position. They want to have substantive reasons to defend their vote to themselves and others. Provide reliable printed materials to support the Pro-Life position, but do not overdo it. Legislator’s are very busy and appreciate concise information.
- Get specific commitments: Legislators sometimes do not want to commit themselves on the Life issues. Do not mistake vague expressions of sympathy for commitments. Politely press for specific commitments, with questions such as, “Will you vote for this measure?” You must strive for a firm answer.
- Don’t guess: If the legislator or his staff asks you a question to which you do not know the answer, do not guess. Tell him you will provide that information later and follow up promptly. You must not lessen your credibility or that of other Pro-Life lobbyists by giving misinformation.
- Don't ignore the legislator’s staff: Legislators are very busy, and they depend heavily on their staffs. Aides can strongly influence a legislator’s vote on specific Pro-Life issues by “filtering” the information he receives or through direct advice. Record the names of the staff members with whom you speak at each meeting.
Write a summary: Write a summary of what was said directly after the meeting. Keep one copy in your confidential local files and forward one copy to the address below, c/o TRTL Legislative Office.
For background information or other assistance, contact:
Elizabeth Graham, Legislative Director
Texas Right To Life Committee, Inc.
6776 Southwest Freeway, #430
Houston, Texas 77074
Phone (713) 782-LIFE
Fax (713) 952-2041