The Arizona primary election will be held on August 26, 2014, with early voting beginning on July 31. Reproductive health care access has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive justice. To acquaint you with our endorsed candidates, we are running a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” Make your voice heard in 2014!
Stefanie Mach is the incumbent for Legislative District 10 state representative and running for re-election. Considered a swing district, LD 10 comprises the east side of the Tucson metropolitan area. It encompasses neighborhoods from Campbell Avenue to Tanque Verde Ranch and the Catalina Mountains to Valencia Road.
On July 14, 2014, Mach spoke via telephone with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, and emphasized the need for accessible education programs and health care, including comprehensive sex education, to help ensure that everyone has access to both information and choices that promote quality of life.
“Making abortion illegal … does not … eliminate abortions. It just eliminates safe abortions.”
Tell us a little about your background.
I grew up as a military kid. My dad was in the Air Force until I was in high school, and he retired to his home state of Wisconsin. Then I ended up settling there for a while. I went to undergrad. I was the first in my family to get a college degree from a four-year university, and then I went on to get a master’s degree in public policy after working in nonprofits for several years.
So, I think I just kind of talked about why I was involved in service. I ended up, after undergrad, going into AmeriCorps. I served a year as a volunteer with them, and I was just involved in service.
And I think the other thing that played a part in developing who I was as a person – I had an accident when I was 17 where I was severely burned over 55 percent of my body. I had a lot of extensive hospital care, and so health care issues are pretty important to me because of it. And education is also personally important because of my own personal experiences.
So, that’s kind of what brought me to wanting to run for office — just my history of service and my personal experiences. And my voice I don’t think is very often heard in the legislature.
What kind of beneficial legislation would you like to see introduced, and why do you think it’s important to fight for it?
I think the biggest thing is when we talk about workforce development, we talk about the economy and creating more good quality jobs – the high wage jobs that everyone wants — we have to focus on workforce development. That means education. It’s adult education, it’s joint technical education districts — the JTEDs. We have a variety of other education programs that have been proven to be very successful that we really need to invest more in. We need to make sure that JTEDs have ninth grade support, and we need to make sure that graduation levels are up based on the evidence-based programs.
When it comes to other issues besides education, I think infrastructure is important. We need to be reinvesting in our community in a way that’s good for the environment, that we’re not sacrificing the already limited resources, like water, that we don’t have.
Then, when it comes to health care, I feel very personally attached to that, and I think that accurate sex ed is incredibly important, especially for everyone who is interested in making abortion more rare. And just for people to be more aware of their own bodies and how to make better decisions for themselves.
The last thing too on the social issues, in particular, equality is really important, and I think that adding gender identity and expression to the list of protected classes, I think, is important as well as marriage equality.
Why do you think it’s important that people make their own health care decisions?
Because only the individual can understand what’s happening in their body and only that individual will feel the consequence of whatever decision is made. And for that — to have autonomy over your own body — is incredibly important. You will make the best decisions you can with your loved ones, with your doctor, with other medical professionals, better than anyone else ever can.
Last legislative session, you voted against HB 2284, which now permits the health department to inspect abortion clinics without a warrant. How do you explain to constituents the unique nature of abortion care and the need for heightened privacy and safety for patients?
Well, what I say to everyone is making abortion illegal or inaccessible does not reduce, or eliminate, abortions. It just eliminates safe abortions. That is why I think that we need to have better programs to prevent them from happening. I think that all people share the motivation to reduce the amount of unplanned pregnancies and, therefore, the abortions. I think that we can do that by making sure that people are aware of their own bodies, having medically accurate sex education, making sure that people have access to birth control, and that they are in a place where economically they can take care of themselves and their families.
It is important to have abortions legal — not illegal, but legal — just so that we can have safe abortions and that our sisters, mothers, daughters, are not dying or being severely injured for something that historically, we’ve seen, is going to continue to happen.
Arizona Mayors released a report stating that high school dropouts cost the state $7.6 billion over the course of their lifetime. What do you think about the connection between teenage pregnancy and high-school dropout rates? Do you support comprehensive sex education?
Absolutely, I support comprehensive sex education. And I think that, obviously, when any two people — whether it’s the mother and/or the father having a child under the age of 18 while they’re still in school leads to a lot of dropouts and you want to make sure that obviously, again, the child care subsidies, allowing for education to be a part of that, to receive the child care subsidies and making sure that people are preventing that from happening will absolutely encourage the individual to have a more successful, financially successful, life anyway, as well as the state, the community.
We want to make sure that every child brought into this world is brought into the world intentionally and with love and with the appropriate care that they need to succeed in the world. And in order for us to do that we need to make sure that everyone is empowered to have all of the ability to make those decisions. And education is a huge part of that.
Why was it important for you to be endorsed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona?
Well, I think that it sends a message to people that I support women, women’s reproductive health care, and reproductive health care for everyone. I think that some people forget that Planned Parenthood — the majority of what they do is cancer screenings and regular health screenings and it’s not just for women. It’s for men as well. It’s the prevention of STIs and these are all public health issues. And so I want everyone to know that I proudly stand up for a woman’s right to choose. I proudly stand up for affordable access to reproductive health care, and education toward medically accurate information so that people can make the best decisions for themselves.
For more information about Stefanie Mach, visit her website or follow her on Twitter. You can also like her on Facebook — on her personal page at facebook.com/st.mach (must be logged into Facebook to view) as well as her campaign page at facebook.com/StefanieMachAZ.