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 early voting began on August 2. Voters need to have been 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!
Jennifer Jermaine has a long history of being politically engaged, advocating for women’s rights, public health, and other causes on behalf of nonprofit and social services organizations. But the last two years have brought two waves of activism that were transformative for the longtime Chandler resident, inspiring her to launch her own advocacy organization — and run for state Legislature.
“Health care decisions are very personal and private and should be kept that way.”
The first wave was the mounting protests in the wake of Donald Trump’s election in 2016. The victory of such a far-right candidate prompted Jermaine to post a call for action on Facebook. Her idea was a network that would register voters and organize communities, a group she dubbed Stronger Together AZ. Within days, she had 10,000 members. By the end of the month, an inaugural meeting drew 1,000 participants.
The second wave was Arizona’s #RedforEd movement, which sparked strikes and walkouts this spring for better teacher salaries and school funding. Strengthening public education is the first issue Ms. Jermaine mentions on her campaign website. She seeks to represent Legislative District 18, which includes Ahwatukee and parts of Chandler, Mesa, and Tempe, “because the children of Arizona deserve fully funded public schools.”
Along with that focus, Ms. Jermaine is committed to standing up for civil rights and equality on behalf of women, people with disabilities, communities of color, and LGBTQ people. That includes recognizing women’s bodily autonomy and their right “to make their own health care decisions without government intervention or impositions.”
Her positions on these and other reproductive justice issues have earned Ms. Jermaine the endorsement of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona. She generously took the time on August 7, 2018, to tell us more about her background and her candidacy for the Arizona House of Representatives.
Please tell us a little about your background.
I am running for Arizona Legislative District 18 for the House of Representatives. I have spent over 15 years in the nonprofit industry and am currently the executive director of the STAZ Advocacy Network and am a co-founder of Stronger Together AZ, which represents more than 9,000 Arizona residents. I also serve as the executive director of the We the People Summit, training new activists on the tools and techniques of community organizing. I have worked on advocacy on all levels of government in several states, at the federal level, and on the international level.
My background includes advocating for public education, public health, access to health care, women’s rights, the Equal Rights Amendment, civil rights, disability rights, elder care, senior services, and end-of-life options. Prior to my position with STAZ Advocacy Network, I worked for Steps of Love, the LVA Alumni Association, the Zen Hospice Project, the Arthritis Foundation, the Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce, and the San Diego Greenroom Theatre Company. I hold a Master of Public Administration from Arizona State University and a bachelor’s degree in international business from San Diego State University.
What kind of beneficial legislation would you like to introduce should you be elected?
The first bill I would introduce would be to remove the full-federal match requirement from KidsCare. It is imperative that the children of Arizona have access to preventive and routine health care. I will co-sponsor Rep. Butler’s AHCCCS Buy-In bill and Rep. Salman’s bill to remove the right for pharmacists to deny service based on religious or moral objections. I will also introduce Sen. Bowie’s Mitch Warnack Act into the House; this bill provides resources to schools to help prevent teen suicide.
Why do you think it’s important that people make their own health care decisions?
Individuals should be free to make their own health care decisions without the imposition of government. No one belongs in that exam room except for the patient and his/her/their doctor. Health care decisions are very personal and private and should be kept that way.
Republican Jill Norgaard, who currently holds one of the House seats for LD 18, has been a longtime foe of abortion access. She co-sponsored SB 1394, which requires abortion providers to collect and report intrusive information about their patients — and their own practices. What do you think about this bill?
I testified in front of that committee and told Ms. Norgaard that a person’s private medical decisions are none of her business and none of the state’s business. SB 1394’s sole purpose is to shame women and restrict access to care. It adds unfunded mandates to the health care industry and does not reimburse doctors or facilities for the extra exam time to complete these forms. It is also in violation of HIPAA.
What other issues are you fighting for?
Restoring funding to our public education system and college systems, ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, a state-level Equality Act, protecting civil rights, protecting the Arizonans with Disabilities Act, expanding AHCCCS, passage of a drought contingency plan, and common-sense gun reform.
What gives you hope for Arizona’s future?
The rising youth leaders from March for Our Lives and NextGen. They are dedicated and driven and will be a mighty force who are more concerned about issues than the letter behind a politician’s name.
Why was it important for you to be endorsed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona?
I am a former Planned Parenthood patient. Their doctors and nurses were my primary care providers while I was in college. They provided critical access to women’s health care for thousands of uninsured people prior to the Affordable Care Act and continue to provide critical care to families on AHCCCS, those with private insurance, and those with no insurance. I am honored to be endorsed by PPAA and to have the support of a wonderful networking of individuals who care about access to health care.