The Arizona general election will be held on November 6, 2012, with early voting starting on October 11. After the many recent legislative challenges to reproductive health care access, both nationally and statewide, the importance of voting in November can’t be overstated. To help voters, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive health and freedom. Along with those endorsements, we are spotlighting our endorsed candidates in a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” To vote in the general election, you must register to vote by October 9 — and can even register online. Make your voice heard in 2012!
Born in Casa Grande, Matthew Cerra is an Arizona native. Since then, he’s spent many years working in both public and private education in Arizona as well as in the state’s penal system. Cerra is currently seeking to represent Legislative District 16, which includes the city of Apache Junction and the area of Gold Canyon, in the Arizona House of Representatives. He took the time for an interview with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona on September 3, 2012.
“It was bad enough for women who had to let husbands decide what choices were to be made … Can you imagine a government doing that as well?”
Tell us a little about your background.
I currently work as a company trainer — I provide information and training on many of the systems developed by the company I work for to its employees. Prior to this I worked in public and private education and I have worked in the private prison system as an addictions treatment specialist. My career has thus far focused on helping people to improve, helping them to achieve more with their lives.
As a child I lived through every abusive situation that a person can experience, many of these issues stemming from lack of proper family care and management. I have been a child “of the system,” I understand the need for help that many of our children have in families facing difficulties. By the time I was 12, I had testified against a stepfather in a felony abuse trial and was in foster care with my three sisters. Prior to that, I witnessed violence in the home and watched my mother be involved with domestic violence. So when I hear about politicians thinking of expedient ways to get rid of systems that kept me alive — saying they are a waste of resources — I take personal offense to that. I agree that parts of the system need changing. I also recognize that many save lives, and mine was one of them.
In the previous legislative session, there were a lot of bad bills that negatively affected access to birth control (HB2625), funding for family planning (HB2800), abortion (HB2036), and unbiased information about unintended pregnancies in public schools (SB1009). What kind of beneficial legislation would you like to see introduced, and why do you think it’s important to fight for it?
I believe any legislation that makes it easier for a family to provide for themselves and limits the ability of government to make decisions of morality for its people is the legislation to aim for. Government is there to help people, if they choose, to improve their lot in life — and not dictate what that life should be.
Why do you think it is important that people make their own health care choices?
Everyone’s health is unique — and I don’t feel that we can place moralist judgments upon the choices of others as it concerns their own bodies. It was bad enough for women who had to let husbands decide what choices were to be made prior to civil rights laws, but can you imagine a government doing that as well?
Why do you support comprehensive sex education in our schools?
Whether anyone likes it or not — people have been having sex since the dawn of the species and well before. No moral judgment or law will ever be made or has been made to stop people from having sex. At the very least — we should make sure kids are very aware of the myths surrounding sex and know how to be safe and pregnancy-free until they are ready to start a family. And for those opposed to sex education — promoting ignorance does not help anyone.
Why was it important for you to be endorsed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona?
After all I had experienced, it was important for me to have the endorsement to show that my experience will be put to good use. It is hard to find a man who is willing to talk about having experienced the same abuse women’s advocates list as a reason for fighting. Additionally, it is an organization that truly helps women without making moral judgments as some others are apt to do — and I appreciate that.
In this election, you’re running against two Republican opponents. One of them, Doug Coleman, in a survey he submitted to the Center for Arizona policy, indicated that he supported conscience clauses — for example, that he would be in favor of allowing a pharmacist to refuse to dispense emergency contraception if the medication interfered with the pharmacist’s moral or religious beliefs. How would you respond to that?
I do not believe it is the place of the pharmacist to make decisions for a person. There is nothing in the job description that says “be the moral compass” for someone other than yourself. And let’s be entirely honest here — if this same rule was being asked when it pertains to Viagra instead of contraception — there would be a law passed banning this behavior within a week. They would call an emergency session and have that law out the door on the governor’s desk before you could blink. The fact of the matter is that while it is OK for people to object to certain behaviors and not agree with someone else — it is not OK to fail to do your job because you feel you have the right to make a decision for someone else.
Your other Republican opponent, Kelly Townsend, also submitted her own survey answers to the Center for Arizona Policy. In it, she supported prohibiting abortion except when necessary to prevent the death of the mother. Do you believe this is consistent with the views of most Arizonans? Why or why not?
I believe this is outside the views of most Arizonans. I am an Arizona native, so I recognize the strong libertarian streak that underlies a lot of the personal politics many of us bring to the table. We do not want decisions made for us, and don’t want the influence of outsiders deciding very personal and emotional decisions for us. Kelly makes a case for religious authoritarianism with much of what she does, believing it is her divine mission to personally shut down PPAZ (Planned Parenthood Arizona). That sort of thought process doesn’t belong much of anywhere. It is also telling that she did not support an exemption in the case of rape — showing that she would put the rights of a person who committed a heinous sex crime above that of a victim of violence. Under most state laws, rapists have parental rights still — so after a victim has been created, Kelly wants them to stay a victim forever? That sort of twisted thinking is definitely not in line with that of a majority of Arizonans.
Because of the views of the other candidates in the LD 16 House election, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona is recommending a “single-shot vote” for Matthew Cerra. With a single-shot vote, voters vote for one, and only one, candidate in an election, even though they can vote for as many as two. This increases the chances of the chosen single-shot candidate being elected. Since every voter gets two votes for state representative, if some of the voters use only one, then the candidate receiving that single vote automatically receives a greater percentage of the total votes cast, giving him or her a better chance at winning the election.
In single-shotting a candidate, you are in essence giving both of your votes to one candidate by not giving the second to another.