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 midnight tonight (October 9) — and can even register online. Make your voice heard in 2012!
“I moved to Arizona to retire,” Andrea Dalessandro said in a recent telephone interview with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona. But when the former teacher saw the legislature cutting funding from public education — first from English language learners in Nogales, then from everyone — it inspired her to take action. She ran for the Arizona House of Representatives in both 2008 and 2010, in what was then Legislative District 30. With the recent redistricting, what’s changed is Dalessandro’s district number; she now seeks to represent LD 2, an area that includes much of southern Tucson, Sahuarita, Green Valley, and all of Santa Cruz County. What hasn’t changed is Dalessandro’s commitment to representing the people she cares about.
Andrea Dalessandro was kind enough to take the time for an interview on October 2, 2012.
“I’m tired of the war on women.”
Having lived here since 2004, Dalessandro considers herself a “naturalized Arizonan.” She is also a retired math teacher and certified public accountant. She had a tax practice for a number of years that she closed in 2006 to prepare to run for office.
Of her family, Dalessandro is married to a disabled Vietnam veteran. Moreover, she said, “I’m a mother — and a grandmother of five.”
When asked about the bad bills introduced in the legislature during the last session — the ones that negatively affected access to birth control and abortion as well as funding for family planning — Dalessandro responded that she didn’t know when politicians had declared a right to get involved with a woman’s personal medical decisions. She said, “They don’t have any right to talk to me about a mammogram or cancer treatment,” and similarly felt that other areas of reproductive and sexual health care were “a personal issue, a private issue … I don’t know how politicians got caught up with it.”
This is not, she feels, the correct role for government: “People say they want smaller government, and yet they feel that they can impose their will on women. I’m tired of the war on women.” Many of the legal and funding issues, she noted, have negative impacts on elderly women, on disabled women, and on women seeking education. Additionally, many of the pieces of legislation have been part of a concerted effort to chip “away at women’s rights for a long, long time. They started with waiting periods and restrictions on young women needing parental consent to terminate a pregnancy.”
At this point in that effort, “Some of the other bills make Arizona seem laughable and backward. To think that every woman is pregnant two weeks before they could have conceived is just — well, I’ve been using the word ‘wrong-headed’ quite a bit lately.”
Instead, Dalessandro is hoping to restore more common sense and balance to the state Legislature. “I’m optimistic that more balanced voices will be at the legislature in the next session,” she said. In her opinion, promoting accurate knowledge of reproductive health as well as access to family-planning health care should not be a partisan issue: “It’s good policy.” As she explained, making abortion illegal “would not stop abortion. We would still have it. The only difference would be that people would be dying because they’d be back-alley abortions that would put women at risk.”
Additionally, she noted, “People are entitled to their religious beliefs, but we have to abide by the laws of the land. We cannot put our personal beliefs on other people.”
More than once, Dalessandro mentioned being willing to work with both Democrats and Republicans to pass beneficial health care legislation — such as one bill that would require health care professionals to make emergency contraception available to rape survivors (HB2331) and another that would require Arizona schools to provide medically accurate, comprehensive sex education in grades 7 to 12 (HB2616). She added, “I’d be happy to reintroduce those bills again and stand with others; hopefully we’ll have women and men standing up with us to support those bills.”
In fact, many of Dalessandro’s positions are for access to quality education and health care. Asked about her position on SB 1009, which requires public school instructional programs to promote — as state interests — childbirth and adoption as preferred options to abortion, the former teacher answered, “I think that schools are required to give a more complete picture.”
And, in contrast to her Republican opponent John Christopher Ackerley, who believes that private or religious employers should be able to opt out of providing contraception coverage to their employees, Dalessandro supports the inclusion of contraception coverage in insurance policies. “According to research, the vast majority of people support contraception,” she said. “It should be a part of any health care package available to people.” Similarly, she does not support so-called conscience clauses that would allow a pharmacist to refuse to dispense emergency contraception. “I thought that was unconscionable. They have a professional duty that should trump anything else,” she said.
While Dalessandro generally doesn’t believe that governments should become involved in legislating health care services, she does believe it makes sense to fund organizations that increase health care accessibility for the residents of an area. “I sound like a Gemini with that answer,” she joked, “but I mean, Planned Parenthood gives such good services in many, many areas of the state. That is cost effective, to support Planned Parenthood … I think the legislature made a bad mistake in defunding Planned Parenthood because of all the health care that Planned Parenthood gives to women and families, who are usually young and low income. I think the consequences to Arizona will be catastrophic. There is no other group in Arizona who can absorb all of the efforts that Planned Parenthood provides around the state.”
For her, the endorsement from Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona runs even deeper: “Women’s reproductive rights are rights that we shouldn’t take for granted. And it’s clear in Arizona that they’re just trying to take away women’s rights.” And that’s not OK.
With all the redistricting that’s taken place this year, you might not even know what legislative district you’re in — but you can click here to find out! And, regardless of which legislative district in Arizona you live in, you can contact us if you’d like to volunteer for an endorsed candidate in your legislative district.