The Arizona primary election will be held on August 30, 2016. 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 primary election, you must register to vote by August 1 — and can even register online. Make your voice heard in 2016!
[I]isha Graves is running to represent Arizona’s 13th legislative district. Although two-thirds of LD 13’s constituents live in Maricopa County’s West Valley, in terms of pure acreage the district is largely rural, stretching as far north as Wickenburg and all the way to the foothills of Yuma in the west.
Although Ms. Graves is running unopposed in next month’s Democratic primary election, in November she will be vying with Republican candidates to fill one of two available House seats. One Republican who she is likely to face is Don Shooter, who is running for the House after serving three terms as a state Senator — a position he used to oppose birth control access and attempt to enshrine anti-LGBTQ discrimination into law.
“We need to invest smarter in areas like education, preventive health care, and mental health.”
Voters in LD 13 looking for a candidate who prioritizes health care, education, and compassion can cast their ballots for Iisha Graves, who generously took the time to answer our questions on July 14, 2016.
Tell us a little about your background.
I grew up in a family that struggled with addiction and abuse. Despite the challenges this created for me, I broke the cycle of abuse, educated myself, and created a different life for my children than the one I had. My experiences have shown me the importance of mental health, medical care, and social services in ensuring individuals and families thrive. For over 15 years I have been working with at-risk populations of youth and adults. My campaign is founded on the idea that it is time to mend our failing education system so that it serves all our students; to transform the for-profit prison industry into a for-people industry; and to remodel our justice system so that people struggling with addiction receive social services and medical care rather than criminal records.
What kind of beneficial legislation would you like to see introduced, and why do you think it’s important to fight for it?
I want to shift the priorities emphasized in our state budget. A budget is a moral document that expresses the values and priorities of our state. It’s time to put children and families first. Healthy families are not only a social and moral good, but they are also the cornerstone of a thriving economy. We need a smart, visionary budget that is fiscally responsible and that invests in the long term well-being and health of Arizona children and families. We need to invest smarter in areas like education, preventive health care, and mental health — which will save dollars that later would be spent on welfare programs and prisons.
When it comes to health care access, particularly sexual and reproductive health care access, what unique needs do your more rural constituents face?
Rural infrastructure is a major barrier for health care access. Without reliable public transportation or nearby reproductive health care clinics, my rural constituents are disproportionately affected by legislation that disallows telemedicine, prevents qualified nurse practitioners from treating patients, or requires waiting periods for care.
One of your Republican opponents, Don Shooter, voted for HB 2599, which lays the groundwork for Arizona to kick Planned Parenthood out of AHCCCS, our state Medicaid program. If that happens, AHCCCS patients couldn’t choose Planned Parenthood for their preventive health care and birth control needs. Do you think Planned Parenthood health centers play an important part in keeping Arizonans healthy?
Yes! Last year, Planned Parenthood provided more than 46,000 routine, preventive health care appointments to men and women in Arizona. Planned Parenthood also invested nearly half a million dollars in public education and information in our state. These preventive services and public education contribute to the well-being of individuals and the community as a whole.
Some Arizona school districts, like Tucson Unified School District, are beginning to include comprehensive sex education in their classrooms, but progress has been slow. How would you like to see sexuality education addressed on a statewide level?
Age-appropriate, medically accurate sexuality education should be mandated by the state.
Why was it important for you to be endorsed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona?
I’m concerned about Arizona’s high teen pregnancy rates and the way unintended pregnancies impact the potential of young women. And there is no question: Planned Parenthood has been at the forefront of reducing unintended pregnancies for decades. Planned Parenthood’s work dramatically reduces the need for women to be in the position of considering an abortion. Expanding Planned Parenthood’s funding and the reach of its services would raise the quality of life for tens of thousands of women and men throughout our state. Having the endorsement shows voters that I intend to stand with Planned Parenthood.
To learn more about Iisha Graves’ background and platform, you can like her on Facebook!