It’s pretty safe to say that nearly all of the political advertisements and newspaper articles covering the Congressional District 8 race between Ron Barber and Jesse Kelly have focused on Social Security and Medicare. But, the issue of women’s health care is also critical — and one that hasn’t received much attention.
Jesse Kelly is an avowed anti-choice candidate and has received support from the National Right to Life Political Action Committee. Barber, when asked about his position on choice and women’s health care, said he has always been pro-choice and believes women’s health care decisions must be made between women and their doctors.
Ron Barber is running to finish Gabrielle Giffords’ term in the June 12, 2012, special election. Early voting starts on May 17.
“There has been too much political debate about limiting our freedoms,” he told us. “Women have the right to make their own choices about contraception and any interference from the government or employers is an affront to personal liberty.”
The debate on women’s health care used to center on abortion. It has now expanded to include the availability of contraception and the “right to refusal” — so-called consciousness clauses that allow pharmacists to refuse to dispense emergency contraception, employers to opt out of providing insurance coverage for birth control, and health care providers to refuse emergency care for pregnant women. Barber, as do most Americans, believes that the “availability of contraception was an issue we settled 50 years ago” and employers, insurance companies, and pharmacists should not put themselves between a woman and her doctor.
“I will be a strong voice to make sure that basic contraception continues to be available to women. I will vote against any proposal to defund Planned Parenthood,” Barber promises. Though many of the laws on this issue are being implemented at the state level, he says that he will oppose any restrictions on contraception and be a voice of support for access to contraception at home in Arizona.
In the last round of budget debates, Republicans made Planned Parenthood a bargaining chip. When asked how he would deal with this tactic as a congressman, Barber said he believes that while bipartisan solutions can be found to some of the issues, he “will not cave to any attempt to extract a vote against Planned Parenthood in exchange for movement on other important legislation. The American people deserve a Congress willing to vote on each issue — not have legislation held captive by an extreme part of the Republican caucus.”
Barber continued, “Our country — and certainly Southern Arizona — is facing enormous challenges: a disappearing middle class, unemployment and underemployment, aging infrastructure. To play partisan games with the budget — to risk programs that support our veterans, support our children, and support our seniors — is not business-as-usual, it is totally unacceptable. Our federal and state budgets should reflect our values and not the extreme positions of a few legislators.”
Defunding Planned Parenthood is a stated goal of the presumptive Republican presidential candidate. As a supporter of Planned Parenthood, Barber holds that Planned Parenthood “should not be held hostage in the debate about contraception and abortion rights.” He appreciates that Planned Parenthood has provided critical health services for nearly 100 years, and its cancer screenings and preventive care must continue to receive federal support. Barber has stated that when he is in Washington, he will “fight to ensure that Planned Parenthood receives the political and financial support to continue these essential services.”
Barber sees access to basic health care as a major issue that must be addressed in the remainder of this legislative term — and into the next term. He believes it will be important to ensure that Planned Parenthood and other providers continue to receive funds to provide basic health care, regardless of state laws on abortion or funding. He recognizes that low-income women and women in rural areas don’t have easy access to preventive care, and he wants to work to improve this access. Barber has said he “will put a high priority on this issue when I go to Congress.”
Ron Barber has lived in Southern Arizona most of his life. He went to high school in Tucson, and graduated from the University of Arizona. He married his high school sweetheart, Nancy, and they raised their two girls there. Together they ran a small business, Toy Traders/Stork’s Nest, where families could buy and trade used toys, clothing, and equipment. He also worked for 35 years as an advocate for people with disabilities. As his website tells us, he ran one of the five most cost-efficient, high-quality family-service programs in the country.
Wanting to continue his commitment to improving people’s lives and solving community problems, Barber headed up Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ district operations in 2006. In that position, he got results by cutting through federal agency red tape for constituents. After the tragic shooting in Tucson in January 2011, Giffords stepped down from her position to focus on her recovery. Barber, less critically wounded in the shooting, recovered and was encouraged to run to fill the remainder of Giffords’ term, as well as to run for the next full term. With Gabrielle Giffords’ encouragement and endorsement, Barber accepted the opportunity to continue his commitment to public service.
If you believe it is critical for the people of CD8 to have a strong proponent for women’s health care representing them in Washington, you might like to volunteer or contribute to his campaign. Please go to www.ronbarberforcongress.com to sign up to help. If you are registered to vote in CD8, you can request an early ballot here.