Editor’s Note: What follows is our unedited, exclusive interview with Ron Barber, the candidate who is running to complete Gabrielle Giffords’ term in Congressional District 8. Barber has worked with Giffords since she was elected to Congress in 2006, after which he became the head of her Tucson office. He is endorsed by both Giffords and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. Prior to his work with Giffords, he navigated bureaucratic red tape as head of the Southern Arizona branch of the state’s Division of Developmental Disabilities, advocating for vulnerable members of the community. With strong bipartisan support, and strong roots in Southern Arizona, Barber will stand for CD8 in Washington — but first, he needs your vote. The election will be held on June 12, 2012; you can also vote by early ballot.
“Our federal and state budgets should reflect our values and not the extreme positions of a few legislators.”
Please give me a little background on yourself: where you grew up, your education, how long you’ve lived in Tucson.
I have lived here in Southern Arizona most of my life, running a small business with my wife, Nancy, and helping solve community problems — whether it was heading up Congresswoman Giffords’ district operations to help people get results by cutting through federal agency red tape, or working for 35 years to look out for people with disabilities.
I was born in England, but went to high school in Tucson, where I met my wife, Nancy. We were high school sweethearts — we first started dating in 1960 and have been together ever since. I went to the University of Arizona, here in Tucson, and received a bachelor’s degree. I’ve lived in Tucson for over 50 years — my children and grandchildren all live here as well.
What women’s health care issues do you see will need to be addressed in the remainder of this legislative term and in the next?
Access to basic care is still a major issue for women’s health. We must ensure that regardless of state laws on abortions or funding, Planned Parenthood and other clinics continue to receive funds to provide basic health care to women — from cancer screenings to mammograms. Far too often, low-income women, and women in rural areas, do not have access to clinics that provide that kind of preventive care. Congress must continue to work to improve access to care — and I will put a high priority on this issue when I go to Congress.
“Getting rid of Planned Parenthood” is a goal of the Republican presidential candidates. As a supporter of Planned Parenthood, why do you believe it is important for Planned Parenthood to have the support of the federal government and what type of support is appropriate?
Planned Parenthood has provided critical health services to women and men for nearly 100 years and its work must continue to receive federal support. Planned Parenthood should not be held hostage in the debate about contraception and abortion rights. Cancer screenings, mammograms, and other basic preventive care should not be a partisan issue — and it is unbelievable that this has now become a goal of Republican-controlled legislatures and the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee. I will fight to ensure that Planned Parenthood receives the political and financial support to continue these essential services.
Tell me how you arrived at the decision to become pro-choice.
I have always been pro-choice. A woman’s health care decisions must be made between her and her doctor. There has been too much political debate about limiting our freedoms. 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 “right to refusal” (of providing emergency birth control, emergency care for pregnant women). Will you address the part that you can play as a legislator in safeguarding women’s health care?
Most Americans believe that the availability of contraception was an issue we settled 50 years ago. A woman’s health care decisions must be made between her and her doctor — not her employer, not an insurance company, not someone filling a legal prescription. 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.
Many of the laws on this issue are being implemented at a state level. I will work in Congress to oppose any restrictions on contraception, and I will also 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. Do you believe this is “business-as-usual” or a new tactic? As a legislator how would you deal with this type of tactic?
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.
I believe that we can find bipartisan solutions to some of the issues we face. I will not cave, however, 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.
Please give me contacts or links that can be shared with Planned Parenthood supporters who want to help you.
Please sign up to volunteer or contribute at www.ronbarberforcongress.com.