Meet Our Candidates: Kelli Butler for State Representative, LD 28

The Arizona general election will be held on November 8, 2016. Reproductive health care access has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive justice. To acquaint you with our endorsed candidates, we are running a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” In order to vote in the election, you must have been registered to vote by October 10. Make your voice heard in 2016!

kelli-butler-2016-scaledThe 28th legislative district has, until recently, been represented in the House by Democrat Eric Meyer and Republican Kate Brophy McGee, making it one of the state’s few swing districts. Dr. Eric Meyer, although termed out of the House, was not done fighting for his values and District 28. Evaluating his competition, incumbent Adam Driggs announced that he would not seek reelection. Kate Brophy McGee jumped at the opportunity to get in the Senate race, leaving two seats in the House up for grabs.

Kelli Butler, a Democrat, hopes to occupy one of those seats, keeping LD 28’s House representation split between one Democrat and one Republican.

Ms. Butler will be squaring off against Mary Hamway and Maria Syms, both of whom support heavy restrictions on abortion.  Ms. Syms also opposes including sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression in nondiscrimination laws. While all three House candidates have made education a central part of their platforms, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona trusts Ms. Butler to advocate for a very important aspect of children’s schooling: comprehensive sex education. For that reason, and because of her strong support for reproductive rights, we recommend a single-shot vote for Kelli Butler.

Education, the economy, and child safety represent the three pillars of Ms. Butler’s platform, and comprehensive sex education links all three of these issues together. Including comprehensive sex education in schools empowers students with the information they need to avoid sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies — the latter of which will help reduce dropout rates among teenage girls. When teens are able to delay childbearing until after they complete their educations, they are able to obtain better jobs and be less dependent on public assistance, helping to strengthen the economy. Knowledge about preventing pregnancy can help them start their families when they are ready, helping children to be born into more stable homes that are ready to raise them.

We need lawmakers at the Capitol to introduce legislation that improves sex education in all of Arizona, rather than making piecemeal advances one district at a time. Even school districts with relatively progressive sex-ed programs are constrained by state laws that, for example, forbid teachers from presenting LGBTQ folks in a positive light. We need representatives like Ms. Butler to give local school districts better laws to work with.

Kelli Butler is running to represent Legislative District 28, which includes Paradise Valley and parts of Phoenix. She took the time for an interview with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona on October 12, 2016.

“Medically accurate and age-appropriate sex education is vital to every person’s health and well-being.”

Tell us a little about your background and why it’s important to you to be involved in your community.

I am a native Arizonan and I grew up largely within the boundaries of my district. I attended local public schools at a time when Arizona was near the national average in per-student funding. We had access to quality programs and educational options that are no longer available to our public school students today. When my two boys attended our neighborhood public school, I witnessed the dire results of budget cuts — programs like art, music, and electives were cut, class sizes increased, and teachers began leaving the profession. I got involved in politics because I am a passionate advocate for education and I want to be part of a different vision for our state. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Michael Muscato for State Senator, LD 22

The Arizona general election will be held on November 8, 2016. Reproductive health care access has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive justice. To acquaint you with our endorsed candidates, we are running a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” In order to vote in the election, you must have been registered to vote by October 10. Make your voice heard in 2016!

michaelmuscatoMichael Muscato was born and bred in Arizona, leaving the state briefly to play baseball, then moving to California, where he taught himself to be a recording engineer — a career that sent him around the globe supporting touring musicians and other entertainers. The year 2013 saw his homecoming to Peoria, where he raises his family in the community in which he grew up and now seeks to represent in the Arizona Senate.

Legislative District 22 includes Sun City West, Mountain Vista, Surprise, Peoria, and Lake Pleasant, and is currently represented in the state Senate by Judy Burges, who opposes comprehensive sex education, believes in severe restrictions on abortion, and would not include LGBTQ folks in nondiscrimination laws. Given that she doesn’t stand for the rights and health of her constituents — in the ability of children to learn about sexual health and healthy relationships, in the ability of women to control their bodies and fates, or in people’s right not to be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity — it’s time to replace Sen. Burges with someone who will stand for all of LD 22’s electorate.

“I actually care about people and fight for their interests and needs over those of corporations and special interests.”

In fact, it was his deep disappointment with Sen. Burges’ performance as a senator that compelled Mr. Muscato to run for the Arizona Senate. As he wrote in Your West Valley, “Nothing about her voting record on issues is in support of children, families, or small businesses. She has repeatedly voted against funding public education, continuously voted against KidsCare, and voted to cut TANFF for those most in need of help.”

Mr. Muscato generously took the time to answer our questions on October 10, 2016.

Tell us a little about your background.

I am a 32-year-old former minor league baseball player drafted by the New York Yankees. After finishing baseball I became a self-taught engineer and quickly became a director, crew chief, and systems engineer for some of the most famous entertainers in the world for their national and international tours and concerts. I am also a small business owner in LD 22, having started a CrossFit gym three years ago based on a passion of mine, which is fitness. I am the father of two little boys (Cooper, 21 months, and Canton, 2 months). I am happily married to my amazing wife, Alicia, and I could not be more proud to be in a position to represent my hometown this election. Continue reading

Let’s Talk About … Being the Parent of an LGBTQ Child

The following guest post comes to us from Planned Parenthood Arizona’s education staff. Contact them at

father-and-son-thumbnailOctober is Let’s Talk month, when Planned Parenthood advocates for better parent-child communication around sexuality. Last year we wrote about why it’s so important for any parent to talk to their child about sexuality — early and often. Parents are the primary sexuality educators of their children, and children who can talk to their parents about sexuality wait longer to have sex, and are more likely to use protection.

Planned Parenthood has great resources to help parents talk to their kids. Advocates for Youth also has a comprehensive guide to help parents through difficult conversations. Planned Parenthood also has resources for parents of LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning) youth. You might also ask your friendly local librarian about one of these books recommended by PFLAG, a national organization for families, friends, and allies of LGBTQ people.

Demand LGBTQ inclusivity and comprehensive sex education in your school district.

On November 2, Planned Parenthood will host an interactive workshop in Phoenix for parents of LGBTQ youth, where they can practice being an “askable” parent. Parents of LGBTQ kids may find it a little more difficult to be an “askable” adult. But it’s even more important because your children are at particular risk. LGBTQ youth face significant obstacles in their schools, in the world, and, sometimes, unfortunately, in their own homes. LGBTQ youth experience high rates of homelessness, depression/anxiety, and astronomically high rates of suicides — 3 times higher than straight youth. Study after study has shown that, in schools, LGBTQ youth face much higher levels of bullying, harassment, intimidation, threats, and physical assault than their peers. reports that bullied LGBTQ youth (or youth perceived as LGBTQ) are more likely to skip school, smoke, use alcohol and drugs, and to engage in other risky behaviors.

If your child is transgender, their risks are exponentially higher. Almost all transgender students report being harassed at school about their sexual orientation and/or gender. More than half of transgender students report being physically harassed (pushed, shoved) in school. And about a third report being physically assaulted (punched, kicked, or injured with a weapon). For more information on transgender discrimination in schools, please see Harsh Realities: The Experiences of Transgender Youth in Our Nation’s Schools, available online here. Continue reading

McCain Can’t Airbrush His Anti-Women Record

“Decades of attacks on women’s health can’t be erased by a last-minute ploy”

Phoenix, AZ – After suffering mounting criticism from women across Arizona for his sustained support for Donald Trump — who was caught on camera condoning sexual assault — John McCain is attempting to minimize his abhorrent record on women’s health. McCain is facing a tight reelection against Ann Kirkpatrick. Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona today issued a harsh rebuke of McCain’s recent political pander: a newly formed group “Women for McCain.”

McCain’s record includes having voted against at least 55 pieces of women’s health legislation, despite health care access in Arizona being among the worst in the country.

Quote from Bryan Howard, President, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona

“John McCain can’t airbrush his year-long support of Donald Trump and the Presidential candidate’s disgusting behavior towards women. Nor can McCain airbrush his own record of voting repeatedly against women’s health and safety. John McCain has voted to defund Planned Parenthood at least eight times, pushed extreme bills that use religion as a reason to allow employers to deny women health care coverage, and voted over and over again to make it harder for women to obtain safe, legal abortions.

“Women can’t afford Trump’s abhorrent behavior towards women nor a Senator who let Trump’s behavior slide for over a year. This year at the ballot box women will hold John McCain accountable for working against Arizona’s women.”
Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Isela Blanc for State Representative, LD 26

The Arizona general election will be held on November 8, 2016. Reproductive health care access has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive justice. To acquaint you with our endorsed candidates, we are running a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” In order to vote in the election, you must have been registered to vote by October 10. Make your voice heard in 2016!

isela-blanc-scaledIsela Blanc knows how important it is that our governments work for us by supporting the means for us to better ourselves. Her family came to Arizona from Mexico when she was 6 years old, and she was educated by Tempe’s public school systems, eventually becoming the first in her family to attend Arizona State University — all during years “while our state invested in education,” as she points out on her website. So, Ms. Blanc knows firsthand what’s at stake when lawmakers decide to let quality education slide further down their list of priorities.

“Women should not have to answer to anyone when making a decision related to their bodies or their health.”

Education is a major aspect of Ms. Blanc’s platform. She worries that Arizona is winning the “race to the bottom,” as $1 billion in cuts to education spending have resulted in fewer teachers, counselors, and school nurses; swelling classroom sizes; and shrinking after-school programs. As she tells us here, comprehensive sex education is just one part of a quality education, and she hopes to see it return to classrooms across the state.

Ms. Blanc seeks a seat in the Arizona House of Representatives, on behalf of Legislative District 26, which includes Tempe, Mesa, Phoenix, and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. She generously took the time to answer our questions on October 1, 2016.

Tell us a little about your background.

I began as a volunteer serving on school site councils, participating in the PTA, and serving on a little league board. These opportunities drew me to education and my community. I managed early childhood programs through Tempe Community Council. I worked with First Things First to build awareness around the importance of the first five years. I have facilitated for various Arizona State University programs that focus on engaging families to provide them the tools and skills to support their child’s academic achievements. Continue reading

October 11 Is the Day of the Girl


Photo courtesy Hannah Hildebolt

October 11 is the International Day of the Girl Child, a United Nations observance begun in 2011. The day draws attention to the state of girls in the world, which is often a grim picture. Perhaps most important, it also involves girls directly in the work of making change.

In this country, the observance is called the Day of the Girl, and is a movement led by girls. Their website lists their central beliefs:

  • Girls are the experts on issues that affect girls. The solutions to these issues must come from girls. Their voices need to be centralized and elevated in social justice conversations.
  • Girls from marginalized communities must be central in conversations about social justice issues involving those communities.Truly effective social change cannot come without girls’ leadership.
  • Girls’ issues are intersectional. We must intentionally include people who are different from ourselves in our social change work. Otherwise we will not be able to make a meaningful impact — in fact, we could even do damage to huge populations of girls.

This list impressed me as I began my research, and I was curious to meet these girls who understood so clearly a process many of us are still learning. So I contacted them and asked if someone on their Action Team would be interested in doing an interview with me for the Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona blog. I quickly got a reply from someone who said she would bring my request to their planning meeting.

A week later, I got the news that Hannah Hildebolt, age 17, of the Day of the Girl Action Team would talk with me. We made our arrangements, and I am happy to present that interview here.

How did you get involved with activism, particularly the Day of the Girl (DOTG)?

My activism stems from two things: my AP World History class and the camp I used to attend, the Center for Talented Youth (CTY). CTY is a very liberal community, and many of the attendees are activists, so I picked up a lot of interest in social justice while I was at camp. During the school year, this interest was heightened because I was taking a world history course over two years, and the teacher was quite clearly interested in axes of oppression and activism in general. You could say that CTY gave me the modern context for my activism and the history class gave me the historical one. In late 2015, one of my CTY friends recommended that I join DOTG as a way of turning my social justice interests into action. After checking out DOTG’s media, I applied and was chosen for an interview. The rest, as they say, is history. Continue reading

“You Have No Idea How Important This Is”: Anita Hill’s Testimony and the Arizona Attorneys Behind the Scenes

Anita HillWhen Justice Thurgood Marshall announced his retirement from the U.S. Supreme Court in the summer of 1991, it didn’t bode well for women. Marshall, the first African American appointed to the court, was best known for his expertise and influence on civil rights law, but he had also been a defender of reproductive rights during his tenure in the nation’s highest court. He was among the court majority that legalized abortion in Roe v. Wade, and he again stood up for abortion rights in two later cases, Harris v. McRae and Webster v. Reproductive Health Services.

The impact of Anita Hill’s testimony went beyond the question of Clarence Thomas’ appointment.

Marshall’s decision to leave the Supreme Court was announced during the presidency of George H.W. Bush, who had campaigned on an anti-abortion platform in his 1988 presidential bid. Predictably, Bush used the opportunity to replace Marshall with a more conservative judge. At a press conference on July 1, 1991, President Bush named Clarence Thomas, who was then one of the few African-American judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals, as his nominee.

Thomas had only served 19 months as a federal judge and, at 43, was relatively young for an appointee. Of the justices currently serving, he was the youngest at the time of appointment. Nonetheless, he had a record of statements and judgments that was enough to satisfy the Republican base. Though he had spent eight years as chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), he had been critical of affirmative action and school desegregation initiatives, and he questioned the very idea that the government should take action to address racial inequality. A product of a Catholic upbringing and Catholic schooling, Thomas had called the right of married couples to use contraceptives an “invention.” Groups like the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) immediately spoke out against Thomas’ nomination, expressing concern that his presence on the court could put Roe v. Wade at risk. Continue reading