The time to fight back — and fight forward — for reproductive justice is fast approaching. The stakes are high in this year’s state election, with candidates for governor, secretary of state, attorney general, and other races on the ballot. The Arizona primary election will be held August 28, 2018, and voters need to be registered by July 30 to cast their ballots. Reproductive health has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who put our health and our rights first. Get to know them now in our series of “Meet Our Candidates” interviews, and make your voice heard in 2018!
Legislative District 18 stretches from Chandler to Ahwatukee, just south of Phoenix. It is currently represented in the state Senate by Sean Bowie, who ousted former Sen. Jeff Dial in 2016. Sen. Bowie’s win in 2016 was a victory for proponents of reproductive rights and LGBTQ equality, as his predecessor helped block access to contraception and abortion, and voted to codify discrimination based on sexual orientation into law. In contrast, Sen. Bowie has upheld the rights of women and the dignity of LGBTQ folks.
“We can work to stop bad pieces of legislation at the state level.”
For example, earlier this year Sen. Bowie introduced a bill that would have banned conversion therapy for minors in Arizona. Conversion therapy is based on the idea that someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity can be changed, and its proponents have used the imprimatur of psychology in an attempt to legitimize the psychological torture of many LGBTQ youth.
Most Arizonans oppose this practice, recognizing conversion therapy as ineffective at best — and inhumane at worst, as the practice could be complicit in the high suicide rate within the LGBTQ population. If passed, the bill would have made Arizona the 10th state in the country to outlaw this harmful and pseudoscientific practice — but the bill did not get off the ground. A shift in the Senate might give a bill like this the support it needs, however — pointing to the importance of voting in every election, including midterms.
Due to his support for reproductive justice and LGBTQ rights, Sen. Bowie has earned our endorsement. He generously took the time to answer our questions on July 9, 2018.
Since we last spoke, how has your commitment to serving Arizona grown? What has happened during that time to give you hope, and what has happened to strengthen your convictions?
I’ve really enjoyed representing my community in the state Senate these past two years. As one of 30 senators for the entire state, I can really have an impact on public policy at the state level. And because I work across the aisle in a bipartisan way, I’ve helped improve legislation, stop some bad bills, and get some good bills over the finish line. We’ve made some progress on some key areas, particularly funding for K-12 education, but we still have a way to go to get to where our state needs to be. Since the Senate is so narrowly divided, we’ve also stopped a lot of bills that would have been harmful for the state.
What have you accomplished in your previous term?
In addition to the bipartisan work, I had a bill of my own signed into law earlier this year, SB 1296, which will help make emergency communications more accessible for the disability community. I’ve co-sponsored several bills that have become law, often working across the aisle on issues like texting-while-driving bans and public safety measures.
What will be your first action as an elected official in 2019?
If I’m reelected this fall, I’ll be introducing several pieces of legislation around education, public safety, and workforce development. I hope to get started on the bills shortly after Election Day and have them ready to go by opening day in January.
The uncertain future of the Supreme Court highlights the importance of protecting our rights at the state level. How can state legislators stem the tide of attacks on reproductive rights, for example by addressing so-called conscience clauses, targeted regulations, and access to family planning?
It’s important to elect and reelect legislators who will work to protect reproductive rights. The Senate in particular is so narrowly divided that every seat is critically important. We don’t have much control over what happens at the federal level, but we can work to stop bad pieces of legislation at the state level.
What can state legislators do not just to safeguard existing LGBTQ rights in Arizona, but to move them forward?
Again, electing and reelecting legislators who are supportive of LGBTQ rights. We should pass nondiscrimination protections for the LGBTQ community as a starting point. I introduced a bill earlier this year that would have banned conversion therapy for minors — there are several things we can do to move LGBTQ rights forward, but we need enough members in the Senate to help make it a reality.
What is the most significant thing you can do as an elected official to Stand With Planned Parenthood?
Working toward a bipartisan legislature, which would mean taking control of the state Senate, would mark a significant sea change at the Capitol, and mean that many bad bills would never cross the finish line. I’m working hard in my district to win reelection, and working with other candidates around the state who will work in a bipartisan way and protect women’s reproductive rights.