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!
[C]eleste Plumlee is an exciting new face in the Arizona House of Representatives, having been appointed to fill Andrew Sherwood’s seat after he ascended to the state Senate to take Ed Ableser’s place. From her position in the House, Rep. Plumlee represents Legislative District 26, which includes Mesa, Phoenix, and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, in addition to her home town of Tempe.
“There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to health care, and there is no way a statewide health policy can be applicable to all people equally.”
Despite only serving one session in the House so far, she has proven herself to be a resolute advocate for reproductive health and justice. Her voting record reveals that she refused to support bad bills like HB 2599, which lays the groundwork for Arizona to deny Medicaid recipients from choosing Planned Parenthood for their preventive health services, and SB 1324, which put severe restrictions around the use of medication abortion.
In addition to her support for access to contraception and abortion, equality is an important plank in her platform. The concept of “equality” includes protecting the rights of members of marginalized communities, from LGBTQ folks to people of color — not to mention the importance of equal pay for equal work, and a call to close the pay gap between male and female workers. For these reasons and more, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona enthusiastically endorse Rep. Plumlee for reelection to the Arizona House of Representatives.
Rep. Plumlee generously took the time to answer our questions on July 19, 2016.
Tell us a little about your background.
I first got interested in public policy in graduate school, when I realized I had a unique perspective as a single mother and survivor of domestic violence who has utilized public assistance to raise my children through tough times. I have master of social work and master of public administration degrees from Arizona State University, and have a great deal to contribute to the Legislature through my experience and education. I am the mom of two teenagers and have dedicated my volunteer time to helping educate people about domestic and sexual violence and encouraging other survivors to speak out. I am also a trained facilitator for a comprehensive sexuality education program and have advocated for similar programs being used in public schools for years. I am passionate about social justice and putting an end to gender-based violence, and actively work to do whatever I can towards those goals.
What kind of beneficial legislation would you like to see introduced, and why do you think it’s important to fight for it?
In light of the recent Supreme Court decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, it is important that we move legislation in Arizona to remove any undue burdens for women seeking abortion services. The Arizona legislation passed in recent years that seeks to limit women’s access to abortion services has not been done in the best interest of women, families, or health care rights. The restoration of women’s access to these services would be a significant step in protecting women’s rights to their own health care decisions and removing unnecessary regulation by the state.
I would also like to see thoughtful and thorough legislation that would make medically accurate, comprehensive sexual education a state standard in all public schools. I know from my education, professional experience, and personal involvement that the more education is provided, the safer our young people will be. From identifying sexual and emotional abuse to understanding puberty and preventing STIs and pregnancy, the safety tools that our students receive from comprehensive programs far outweigh the fears perpetuated by programs that limit understanding and accuracy.
Additionally, I would support any efforts to ban the use of so-called religious freedom to limit access to birth control. From medical providers refusing to support patients who choose birth control measures, to pharmacists who refuse to dispense them, it should not be allowable for individuals in medical professions to deny patients access to legal and safe medications that they have chosen to utilize.
Recently, Tucson Unified School District voted 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?
I know that comprehensive sexuality education is imperative for the healthy futures of Arizona students. In addition to offering medically accurate information, the inclusion of healthy relationships and communication skills is an incredibly valuable resource for young people. I would really like to see a statewide standard of comprehensive sexuality education adopted and I also recognize that the efforts against such proposals are robust. In the meantime, while the climate continues to be set for the state to make the right decision for the health and safety of our students, I wholly support individual school districts making the decision to adopt comprehensive programs. Little by little, step by step, we can get Arizona to the place we need to be.
Why do you think it’s important that people make their own health care decisions?
People know what they need. They know their histories, their circumstances, and where they want their futures to go. There is no “one size fits all” approach to health care, and there is no way a statewide health policy can be applicable to all people equally.
Why was it important for you to be endorsed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona?
I am so thankful for the extensive efforts of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona to fight for access to women’s health care, comprehensive sexuality education, and opposition to efforts to limit health care choices. With PPAA’s support, I know I am having a positive impact on the lives of Arizona women and families, and the work I have been doing meets PPAA’s high standard of excellence.