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!
[D]r. Angela Cotera has experience living and working in multiple areas of Arizona. A graduate of Flagstaff High School, she worked on post-doctoral research at the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory in Tucson. Dr. Cotera now lives in Avondale, where she seeks to represent Legislative District 19 in the Arizona State Senate. In addition to reproductive health care access, Dr. Cotera has made stronger schools and secure jobs key issues in her campaign.
She took the time for this interview on July 26, 2014.
“Our mothers fought for us and thought they had won, but it now it seems we have to fight yet again, this time for our daughters.”
Tell us a little about your background.
Arizona has been my home for 47 years, although I spent time in Texas and California while earning two bachelor’s degrees from the University of Texas and a doctorate in applied physics from Stanford.
I learned about the importance of Planned Parenthood from the stories my mother told me of the 11 children and one back-alley abortion that my grandmother endured in the 1930s. Planned Parenthood was also a part of my early-married life, helping me to achieve my twin goals of building both a loving marriage and a successful career.
You are an alumna of Emerge Arizona, an organization whose goal is to increase the number of Democratic women in public office. How did this program impact you, and why do you believe it’s important that these voices be heard and represented in the government?
Emerge Arizona literally changed my life. I had always been interested in running for office, but as a research astrophysicist, I really did not know how; thanks to Emerge, now I know. As you may imagine, coming from a field where only 12 percent are women, I am used to fighting for women to be recognized and given equal treatment. I know that we bring equal talent and abilities to the table, but often a different perspective. That perspective must be well represented within our government.
Your Democratic opponent in the LD 19 Senate race is Lupe Contreras, who signed the Center for Arizona Policy’s statement denouncing Roe v. Wade. How do your views on reproductive health care differ from those of your opponent? Why is it important to protect the gains set forth by Roe v. Wade?
The “Pro-Life Proclamation” that he signed called for all Arizona legislators to make sure that full citizenship rights begin the moment an egg is fertilized. This basically would mean that women have no more rights than an incubator, which is outrageous. I believe that all women have sovereignty over their own bodies, and no one has a right to tell a woman what she can or cannot do within her own body. I believe that all health care decisions should be private, particularly those which involve the most intensely personal aspect of our lives, reproduction. We must protect the rights in Roe v. Wade because we cannot return to a time when women died due to self-induced abortions.
Earlier this year, the state legislature passed HB 2284, which permits the health department to inspect abortion clinics without a warrant. What do you think about the need for heightened privacy and safety for patients seeking reproductive health services?
The concept of a warrantless inspection is unconstitutional and I truly believe the courts will strike down this law. We absolutely need to respect the privacy of any patient seeking any medical procedure, and particularly women who are seeking to do what is in their best interest and the best interest of their families.
What kind of beneficial legislation would you like to see introduced, and why do you think it’s important to fight for it?
Of course, like most of us, I look forward to the day when we can introduce a bill that repeals all the oppressive laws the Center for Arizona Policy has passed over the last decade. I believe that someday soon we will have enough like-minded legislators and a governor to see that happens; I just hope I remain in the legislature long enough to sponsor and vote on that bill. In the meantime, I would like to see a bill that improves and funds sex education in our high schools. The data is in, keeping teenagers in ignorance does not make them less likely to engage in sexual activity, it just makes them parents.
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 comprehensive sex education, teenage pregnancy, and high-school dropout rates?
I would be very interested in reading any studies that establish that connection and think that is a great place to start to get comprehensive sex education into the hands of the young people who need it most. Reducing teenage pregnancies and improving graduation rates is a win-win situation for everyone. The would-be parents have more opportunities to realize their potential, the state has fewer children who need assistance, and the community gets adults who are ready for all that raising children entails — if they can just delay starting a family.
Why was it important for you to be endorsed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona?
Part of the reason I am running this year is because of the completely unacceptable intrusions into a woman’s reproductive health care in the last few years and the fact that my current Democratic representative is a part of that movement! I have always been troubled by assaults on the right to a safe abortion, but I am outraged by these new assaults on birth control. I know that safe and affordable birth control is the key to women being able to determine for themselves when and with whom they bring a child into this world. Like most women, I thought this war on women was over 40 years ago. Our mothers fought for us and thought they had won, but it now it seems we have to fight yet again, this time for our daughters.