The Arizona general election will be held on November 6, 2012, and early voting started 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.” Make your voice heard in 2012!
Earlier this month we profiled Dr. Richard Carmona, a former U.S. surgeon general and Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, as well as Jo Holt, a retired biochemist running for the state Senate. And last month we spotlighted Dr. Eric Meyer, a physician with experience in emergency medicine, who is running for the Arizona House of Representatives. Another candidate who would bring scientific and medical expertise to the Arizona Legislature is Carol Lokare. As an experienced registered nurse, Lokare understands both the factual basis (or lack thereof) for family planning legislation as well as the human side of the equation: how such legislation would impact people’s lives.
Lokare is currently seeking to represent Legislative District 21 — an area that includes El Mirage, Peoria, and part of Glendale — in the Arizona House of Representatives. She took the time for an interview with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona on October 17, 2012.
“I am someone who can be trusted to look out for women and families, someone who will advocate for affordable, comprehensive, easily accessible health care.”
Tell us a little bit about your background.
For the past 32 years I have worked as a registered nurse. I am a 1980 graduate of Phoenix College’s nursing program and a 1984 graduate of the University of Colorado Adult/Geriatric Nurse Practitioner Program. I have a varied background in the nursing field, having worked as a bedside nurse; manager of a hospital medical unit in Los Gatos, California; school nurse; and as a nurse practitioner in a geriatric practice in Sun City, Arizona. I recently took a leave of absence as a cardiac care nurse at Banner Boswell Hospital in Sun City to devote time and attention to my campaign for the Arizona House of Representatives, LD 21. I also have a bachelor of science degree in political science from Arizona State University.
I have been married to my husband, Sanjay, for 25 years, and we have three children, a son and two daughters.
Why do you think it is important that people make their own health care choices? What role do you feel the government should play in legislating and facilitating health care services, especially reproductive health care services?
Because of my background in the health care field this is a question that I feel can be answered in a simple and straightforward way. I cannot think of one time in the last 32 years where I have felt it necessary for any elected government official to step in and make a health care decision for a patient. All health care decisions can and should be made by a patient, his/her physician, and concerned family, without meddlesome interference by outsiders.
The government has an important role to play in the education and protection of health care consumers. It is imperative that Americans have access to safe medications and that these medicines have been developed and tested under the highest standards and when brought to market, consumers can feel confident that they are taking medicines that have been certified to be safe and effective.
It is important that the federal government encourage best practices when it comes to the diagnosis and treatment of illness and that those health care providers and institutions, such as hospitals, are rewarded for quality outcomes. There is a finite amount of money out there for health care and it is the federal government’s responsibility, working hand in hand with providers, to see that this money is spent in ways that best promote prevention and early detection of disease.
Reproductive health care services should not be shortchanged in any way just because the thought of women (and their partners) making choices in the area of pregnancy prevention makes certain people uncomfortable and morally offended.
There is nothing more important in health care than trusting individuals to make their own personal decisions when it comes to their health, and this includes allowing them a way to die with dignity. Health care decisions that do not negatively impact society as a whole must remain individual decisions.
Why do you support comprehensive sex education in our schools?
To shy away from giving young people, especially those who are sexually active or thinking of becoming sexually active, comprehensive sex education, is nothing short of negligence.
I must admit that when I began working as a high school nurse, I was, myself, quite naive when it came to grasping the reality of how sexually active teenagers are. I was literally astounded. And frightened. But not intimidated.
Arizona is lucky in that most public schools still employ registered nurses and these nurses are in the perfect position to teach young people about their bodies in ways that do not cause feelings of shame or embarrassment or in language meant to cause confusion.
School nurses are comfortable talking about the human body and they have the desire and interest in seeing that children are given correct information about male and female reproductive systems and the dangers of unprotected sex and the consequences of unprotected sex. They can speak clearly, in language the kids understand, helping young girls avoid unwanted pregnancies and young boys the burden of young fatherhood.
For those parents too uncomfortable to discuss human sexuality and who feel they do not have the tools they need to talk to their children about bodily changes, school nurses provide the perfect cover.
We need to take off the blinders that prevent us from seeing the dangers inherent in not educating our young people when it comes to how to prevent unwanted pregnancies and STDs. No problem is solved by pretending that it doesn’t exist. Arizona needs to give school nurses and health education teachers the tools they need to help raise young girls who are empowered to be in control of their own bodies and young men the personal fortitude to hold off on early sex.
Particularly given your experience as a school nurse, how would you respond to the statement made by your Republican opponent Debbie Lesko that “We should not allow schools to hand out birth control pills to our young children without parental consent”?
The rules and regulations of the Arizona State Board of Nursing expressly prohibit nurses from dispensing medication. This includes sending patients home from the hospital with any medicine they were given while hospitalized. For example, nurses are prohibited from sending patients home with inhalers for asthma, or vials of insulin unless this medicine was brought in by the patient. The same rules apply to school nurses. School nurses cannot dispense any medication unless previously authorized by a parent or guardian and this medicine must be provided by the adult.
Both Republican candidates in your district — Rick Gray in addition to Ms. Lesko — voted to ban nearly all abortions after 20 weeks (HB2036), to remove funding from Planned Parenthood (HB2800), to protect doctors from fully informing women about prenatal issues if they believe it may lead to abortion (SB1359), and to require public school instructional programs to promote childbirth and adoption as preferred alternatives to abortion (SB1009). What do you believe these candidates’ voting records say about their priorities when it comes to reproductive health?
Representatives Rick Gray and Debbie Lesko bring a personal philosophy to the legislature that advocates for government intrusion into the personal lives of individuals despite touting their “small government” credentials. It is personally offensive to me to have as my representative a woman who, for all intents and purposes, is working to deny women the right to make their own health care decisions, who actively promotes legislation that limits choice, and who carries the water for special interest groups whose sole purpose is to mandate their narrow, self-serving agendas when it comes to women and reproductive rights.
What is even just as offensive is the comment made by Rep. Lesko stating that she personally is not opposed to birth control. That statement shows a lack of personal conviction and an absence of principles and starkly displays why we need to elect people to the Arizona Legislature, such as myself, who can stand on principle and not be seduced by the promise of power and publicity.
Though Rep. Gray is less vocal in his support of these bills legislating abortion restrictions and the defunding of organizations such as Planned Parenthood, and the handcuffing of physicians from telling women about problems with their pregnancy, he is just as guilty as Rep. Lesko when it comes to the issue of women’s choice. He has a perfect record when it comes to limiting choice.
As mentioned, in the previous legislative session, there were a number of bad bills that will negatively affect meaningful access to a variety of reproductive health services. What kind of beneficial legislation would you like to see introduced, and why do you think it’s important to fight for it?
As an elected representative, I will oppose any legislation that negatively impacts a woman’s right to choose and that limits easy access to health care. I will oppose any legislation that places handcuffs on organizations, such as Planned Parenthood, organizations whose sole purpose is to provide women with efficient, cost-effective means of receiving health care.
I will work to provide organizations, such as Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, the tools they need to educate and advocate for all women.
There is no need to spend any amount of time considering any legislation that deals with people’s personal and private matters, if those behaviors do not cause harm to the community at large.
Why is it important for you to be endorsed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona?
A lot of my professional life as a registered nurse has been spent advocating for the rights of patients to make their own health care decisions, without the intrusion of others, including well-meaning family members and other health care professionals. Presently we have in Arizona a majority of legislators who want to dictate what is best for people when it comes to health care choices; legislators who are dismissive of some of the most vulnerable and suffering among us. This saddens me.
It is important for me to be endorsed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona because this sends a message to the voters in LD 21 that I am someone who can be trusted to look out for women and families, someone who will advocate for affordable, comprehensive, easily accessible health care.
Thank you for the opportunity to take part in this project.
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.