Meet Our Candidates: Kelli Butler for State Senator, LD 28

The Arizona general election will be held on November 4, 2014. 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.” In order to vote in the general election, you must register to vote by October 6 — and can even register online. Make your voice heard in 2014!

Kelli Butler 2014[K]elli Butler is an Arizona native with professional experience in the health care field and a background in community involvement in education. When her district’s current state senator, Adam Driggs, voted in favor of this year’s discriminatory SB 1062, she made the decision to run for his seat in the Senate so that her fellow LD 28 constituents could be represented by someone who would advocate for the rights and dignity of all Arizonans.

The three main components of her platform are investing in public education, creating quality jobs, and protecting children and families. To support these goals, Ms. Butler is in favor of including comprehensive sex education in schools to empower students with the information they need to avoid sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies — the latter of which will help reduce dropout rates among teenage girls. Additionally, increasing access to family planning services can help women make decisions that are best for themselves and their families.

The 28th legislative district is currently represented in the state Senate by Adam Driggs, whose record on reproductive health and rights is dismal. He has consistently voted against Planned Parenthood’s mission, supporting bills that would have reduced access to birth control and preventive services at Planned Parenthood Arizona. He has also voted for HB 2036, the infamous bill that restricts abortion to 20 weeks and defines pregnancy as starting two weeks before conception. Additionally, Driggs has signed the Center for Arizona Policy’s statement denouncing Roe v. Wade.

Kelli Butler is running to represent Legislative District 28, which includes Paradise Valley and parts of Phoenix. She took the time for an interview with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona on September 23, 2014.

“We must empower people with knowledge and choices so they are able to make the most responsible decisions for themselves.”

Tell us a little about your background.

I’m a proud Arizona native, having grown up within the boundaries of District 28. I attended University of Arizona and majored in elementary education. I’ve been married for 25 years to my husband, Ben Butler, who is a general dentist in Glendale, Arizona. I help manage his dental practice and run our small business. I am familiar with the challenges of small business ownership and with the regulatory and insurance environments of the health care industry. I am a longtime advocate for public schools, having raised my two boys in Phoenix’s Madison School District. I was very involved in their schools and on district-level committees.

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 this new law?

HB 2284 opens the door to harassment of women and their health care providers. This measure is simply another attempt by far-right groups like the Center for Arizona Policy to restrict women’s access to safe, responsible choices and health services. Abortion clinics are already highly regulated. HB 2284 was motivated by political ideology; it is part of a concerted effort to throw more roadblocks in the way of women seeking access to reproductive medical services.

Your opponent, Adam Driggs, helped send SB 1062, the bill that would have legalized discrimination based on religious beliefs, to the governor when he voted in its favor. He also indicated in a 2012 Center for Arizona Policy questionnaire that he is opposed to adding “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” or “gender expression” as protected classes in Arizona anti-discrimination law. How do your views on protecting LGBTQ rights differ from those of your opponent?

Our legislature’s passage of SB 1062 was outrageous. I made my final decision to run for the state Senate the week SB 1062 passed because I could no longer sit on the sidelines and tolerate the small-minded discrimination being displayed by some of our elected officials, including my opponent. Not only would I have voted no on SB 1062, I would have made every effort to add my voice to those protesting against it. Discrimination in any form, against any group, should never be tolerated and certainly never given legal protection. Laws like SB 1062 do nothing but hurt individuals and embarrass our state.

In contrast to the types of bills supported by your opponent, what kind of beneficial legislation would you like to see introduced, and why do you think it is important to fight for it?

Current Arizona law does not require schools to teach sex education. Progress was attempted during the 2014 legislative session, when SB 1372 was introduced; it would have required school districts to provide sex education that is comprehensive, medically accurate, and age-appropriate. Parents would have had the ability to opt out on behalf of their child. I wholeheartedly support such legislation and was disappointed when this sensible idea did not make it out of committee. Our state should do everything possible to make sure students and young people have access to information that will keep them safe from disease and unwanted pregnancy. It is critical that we educate and empower people to make responsible decisions for themselves.

In a questionnaire submitted to the Arizona Republic, Adam Driggs indicated that he supported defunding Planned Parenthood, saying that “tax payers should not be expected to financially support organizations that perform abortions” — even though public funding only goes toward the preventive services that are already covered by AHCCCS. Where do you stand on access to preventive sexual and reproductive health care?

As a mother, I know that the choice of whether and when to have a child is one of the most important a woman will make in her life. Regardless of income, all women must have access to preventive sexual and reproductive health care so they can make their own appropriate, responsible health decisions.

My opponent’s voting record clearly shows his lack of support for a woman’s freedom to make her own life choices. Not only does he advocate defunding clinics that provide health services, he also co-sponsored legislation to traumatize women with unnecessary ultrasounds prior to abortion. He co-sponsored a bill that would have created legal immunity for physicians who don’t fully inform pregnant women of prenatal health issues — if the doctor believes that information might lead to the termination of a pregnancy. My opponent’s record shows that he wants to restrict women’s access to health care and wants to make women’s critical reproductive health choices subject to government control.

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?

Only 40 percent of teen mothers finish high school. Arizona has one of the lowest graduation rates in the country. As a state, we should be doing everything possible to reduce this unacceptable dropout rate, including the provision of comprehensive sex education to help reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and keep young women in school.

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

As an American, I cherish the freedom and liberty to make my own life choices. Health care decisions, especially those regarding an individual’s reproductive health, are among the most significant in anyone’s life. We must empower people with knowledge and choices so they are able to make the most responsible decisions for themselves.

Why was it important for you to be endorsed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona?

I have great respect for Planned Parenthood and their mission to provide reproductive health care services to diverse communities. I am thrilled to have received the endorsement of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona. As a state Senator, I will advocate for women’s health and reproductive justice.

Find out more about Kelli Butler’s background and platform at her website. You can also keep up to date on Kelli Butler’s campaign by liking her on Facebook or following her on Twitter!

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