Meet Our Candidates: Karyn Lathan for State Representative, LD 17

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!

[K]aryn Lathan, an Arizona native from Chandler, is running in Legislative District 17 for a seat in the Arizona House of Representatives, an area that includes Chandler, Sun Lakes, and part of Gilbert. She has had a career in law enforcement and corrections, and ended her 25-year career as the restorative justice coordinator for the Arizona Department of Corrections. Lathan is currently finishing her degree in business administration at the University of Phoenix.

“We have rolled women’s rights back to the 1950s.”

Lathan is the sole pro-women’s health candidate running for the House in Legislative District 17, facing off against Republican opponents Tom Forese and J.D. Mesnard. Because of the views of the other candidates in the LD 17 House election, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona is recommending a “single-shot vote” for Karyn Lathan. Lathan generously took the time for an interview with us on October 5, 2012.

Tell us about your background and how it will serve your constituents.

I spent my career in law enforcement, first in the U.S. Air Force, then in corrections. I was a correctional officer, correctional programs officer, and probation and parole officer. I ended my career in corrections when I returned to Arizona and started the first restorative justice program for the Arizona Department of Corrections. Currently I am a commissioner with the Chandler Domestic Violence Commission and work with several victim services agencies. I am a consultant for Coalition to End Arizona’s Sexual Exploitation (CEASE). My passion lies with women’s issues and anti-violence issues.

My whole career has been about community and how to have a safe, productive community. I will continue to fight for the quality of life that we all deserve and that emphasizes respect and progress. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link — so is a community.

In the previous legislative session, there were many bad bills that negatively affect access to birth control (HB2625), funding for family planning (HB2800), abortion (HB2036), and unbiased information about unintended pregnancies in public schools (SB1009). What beneficial legislation would you like to see introduced, and why do you think it’s important to fight for it?

Right now, we have rolled women’s rights back to the 1950s. As we have heard on the national stage, if Republicans take control, they do not care about 47 percent of the people, calling them lazy and free-loaders just because they do not have jobs that take them out of poverty levels. According to the Republican presidential nominee, middle class starts at $200,000 to $250,000.  That might be where it should be but corporate greed will never allow it. Why it is important for everyone to be concerned about women’s rights is because it will soon be your rights. The Republicans are only concerned about corporate rights. If elected, I will fight to regain those rights we lost in the last legislative session and move our state forward where we are concerned about citizens. Citizens should be given truthful information so they, not the government, can make informed decisions.

Why do you think it is important that people make their own health care choices?

The Republicans want more personal responsibility but want women to make decisions based on untruthful information. Any major medical procedure should not be made lightly, but it should be the right of the individual to make the decision. That medical procedure should be between the individual, the family, the doctor, and their faith. It should not be made by the government.

Why do you support comprehensive sex education in our schools?

I trust citizens to make the right decision when they have all the facts. In the case of sex education in schools, teaching abstinence only has not been working. Students should have the facts and know the options.

In this election, you’re running against Republican Tom Forese. In a survey Forese submitted to the Center for Arizona Policy, he indicated that he supports conscience clauses — for example, 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?

Anyone who has a professional license should be held to the professional standards of that profession. It is not up to the government, doctor, pharmacist, or any other professional to be the moral police. That should be reserved for the individual and their faith.

Forese also indicated that he supports the prohibition of abortion except when it is necessary to prevent the death of the mother. Please outline your position.

I believe in a woman’s right to choose. I work with sexual assault victims who should not be forced to carry their rapists’ babies. A 12-year-old should not have to have her life ruined by carrying her rapist’s baby to term. It would destroy her physically (but may not kill her, so she would not be “eligible” for an abortion), emotionally, socially, and will more than likely result in lifelong trauma — as if the rape itself will not have lasting effects.

Your opponent in this race was a primary sponsor of HB2800, a bill that defunded Planned Parenthood. Why is it important for you to be endorsed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona?

Planned Parenthood offers services to women, where they feel safe. I don’t see the Republicans shutting down vasectomy offices or stop funding for prostate cancer screenings. They should not be choosing who can provide services in this state, which is what we have licensing for. Women should be able to go to the doctor of their choice who they trust.

Is there any additional information that you’d like your constituents and other Arizona voters to know about you?

I believe in putting people before politics.

If you’d like more information about Karyn Lathan’s campaign — including more detailed positions as well as other individuals and groups who’ve endorsed her — you can find her website at She is also on Twitter @KarynforAzHouse.

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.