About Rachel Port

Rachel has a master’s degree from the University of Chicago Division of Social Sciences and worked as a psychotherapist for many years. She plays viola in the Sierra Vista Symphony, and also writes for Daily Kos and Yahoo Voices.

A Visit to Jeff Flake’s Office: Fighting for Health Care

Jeff Flake, 2014. Photo: Gage Skidmore

January 24 was a national day of action called by the groups MoveOn, Indivisible, and the Working Families Party. The goal was to visit our senators’ offices around the country with concerns about Donald Trump’s cabinet appointments. In Tucson, there was an action outside Sen. John McCain’s office, but instead of joining that, I decided to go by myself to Sen. Jeff Flake’s office to tell someone on his staff my health care story. I was surprised and delighted to find a group from the SaddleBrooke Democratic Club there before me, standing partly inside and partly outside the office, talking specifically about Trump’s cabinet nominees Jeff Sessions and Betsy DeVos. Someone offered me a letter about DeVos, which I refused, not wanting to dilute my message. I joined the group, and a few others straggled in.


We are stronger when we work together, and there is room for whatever kind of action you are able to take.


Several people spoke to a staff person about education and civil rights. One woman brought up the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and how it has helped her family, hoping that Flake would hear people like her who are afraid of what repeal would mean. Someone asked whether Sen. Flake received letters; he had sent in several with no response. There was also talk about what kinds of communications are most likely to receive the senator’s attention. Hint: It was not mass emails sent in by organizations. Personal communications in person or by phone, or personal letters, are more likely to get attention than emails.

A Latina woman sat down with me to get my information. When I asked what her position was, she said this was her first day as an intern in the office. I wished her well and congratulated her, but told her I wanted to speak with someone on the staff. The intern took my name and address, then referred me to a staff member, the same woman who had met with the group from SaddleBrooke. She was interested and friendly. I said I was there to discuss Medicare and Medicaid specifically because they were the reason I was alive today. More than nine years ago, when I had valley fever and developed lumps on my legs, my doctor sent me for a chest x-ray, which showed a spot on my lung. The radiologist recommended a CT scan for a better look at it. Continue reading

Tom Price, Secretary Against Health and Human Services?

Protesters at Sen. McCain's Tucson office, December 20, 2016.

Protesters at Sen. McCain’s Tucson office, December 20, 2016.

On December 20, I took part in a demonstration opposing changes to Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act (ACA). We gathered outside Sen. John McCain’s Tucson office and told our health care stories. Almost all of us were women, but our stories included issues like the cost of diabetic testing supplies and insulin, the difficulties with employer-provided health plans that don’t allow specialized testing and care outside of their network, the prohibitive cost of medication for chronic conditions like AIDS, and my story of a CT scan (which I could only afford with government assistance) for something unrelated that found my kidney cancer. We were unable to meet with anyone from the office, but the written stories were given to staff and a later meeting was set up.


Tom Price is among those who could do the most harm to the greatest number of Americans.


I begin with this story because Tom Price, Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of health and human services, doesn’t think the government has any place in our health care system. He fits very well among Mr. Trump’s choices to head government departments and agencies, a group of people who don’t believe in the work of their respective departments: Jeff Sessions for attorney general, who was denied a federal judgeship because of his racist comments and judicial overreach as Alabama’s attorney general; Scott Pruitt, who has sued the Environmental Protection Agency 13 times because he opposes regulations and doesn’t believe in climate science, to head that agency; Betsy DeVos for secretary of education, who has no background in education and has spent millions of dollars lobbying to get money away from public schools; and Rex Tillerson, who worked all his life for Exxon, which had a large deal with Russia put on hold by sanctions imposed after Russia annexed Crimea, as secretary of state, with the ability to lift those sanctions. And that’s just a sample.

Since 2009, Price, an orthopedic surgeon, has been a member of the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), a group whose members sign a “declaration of independence” renouncing payments from third-party payers, whether government or private insurers. Their journal has published articles opposing taxes on cigarettes, linking abortion and breast cancer, doubting whether HIV causes AIDS, and opposing mandatory vaccinations. They oppose regulating medical practice even as far as hospital peer reviews, and are fiercely for free-market medicine. Continue reading

The Trump Card

Image adapted from photo by Venkataramesh Kommoju

Image adapted from photo by Venkataramesh Kommoju

The Republican presidential candidate is in trouble.

It began when a hot mike tape from Access Hollywood surfaced in which Donald Trump told Billy Bush how he just starts kissing women if they meet his standard of beauty, that when you’re a star “they let you. Grab their pussy; you can do anything.” The end of the tape showed Bush asking for hugs from Arianne Zucker, the actress who inspired those remarks, for Trump and himself. In an opinion piece at The Guardian, Jessica Valenti says of this hug, “In that moment, Bush and Trump are in on a joke and Zucker is the punchline.”

Making a dirty joke out of a woman who is totally unaware of what has gone on before is the real obscenity, not the word pussy, yet I have not seen outrage over this hug anywhere near the outrage over the use of the word.


A lewd word drew more criticism than all the abuse of women that came before.


Billy Bush has lost his job because of that tape. NBC has agreed to pay out his contract in order to keep him off the air.

Some Republicans wanted to do the same thing with Trump, but their party rules say this can only be done by the candidate stepping down, which is one thing this candidate will never do. This candidate believes he is always right and those who don’t agree are enemies.

Since the release of the tape, Trump has repeatedly called his comments “locker room talk,” although many athletes have come forward to say it’s not the talk in their locker rooms. Valenti, however, points out that the men were not in a locker room; they were at work. And this is not simply locker room talk; it is boasting about assaulting women. Maybe Trump was thinking of the high school locker room in Steubenville after the drunken party rape of an unconscious girl by high school athletes, who also filmed it. Perhaps the modern equivalent of such boasting is filming sexual assaults and sharing the video on social media. Continue reading

October 11 Is the Day of the Girl

hannah

Photo courtesy Hannah Hildebolt

October 11 is the International Day of the Girl Child, a United Nations observance begun in 2011. The day draws attention to the state of girls in the world, which is often a grim picture. Perhaps most important, it also involves girls directly in the work of making change.

In this country, the observance is called the Day of the Girl, and is a movement led by girls. Their website lists their central beliefs:

  • Girls are the experts on issues that affect girls. The solutions to these issues must come from girls. Their voices need to be centralized and elevated in social justice conversations.
  • Girls from marginalized communities must be central in conversations about social justice issues involving those communities.Truly effective social change cannot come without girls’ leadership.
  • Girls’ issues are intersectional. We must intentionally include people who are different from ourselves in our social change work. Otherwise we will not be able to make a meaningful impact — in fact, we could even do damage to huge populations of girls.

This list impressed me as I began my research, and I was curious to meet these girls who understood so clearly a process many of us are still learning. So I contacted them and asked if someone on their Action Team would be interested in doing an interview with me for the Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona blog. I quickly got a reply from someone who said she would bring my request to their planning meeting.

A week later, I got the news that Hannah Hildebolt, age 17, of the Day of the Girl Action Team would talk with me. We made our arrangements, and I am happy to present that interview here.

How did you get involved with activism, particularly the Day of the Girl (DOTG)?

My activism stems from two things: my AP World History class and the camp I used to attend, the Center for Talented Youth (CTY). CTY is a very liberal community, and many of the attendees are activists, so I picked up a lot of interest in social justice while I was at camp. During the school year, this interest was heightened because I was taking a world history course over two years, and the teacher was quite clearly interested in axes of oppression and activism in general. You could say that CTY gave me the modern context for my activism and the history class gave me the historical one. In late 2015, one of my CTY friends recommended that I join DOTG as a way of turning my social justice interests into action. After checking out DOTG’s media, I applied and was chosen for an interview. The rest, as they say, is history. Continue reading

Are There Any Survivors in the Room? A Story for Gynecological Cancer Awareness Month

female-dr-comforting-patient“Are there any survivors in the room?”

I don’t remember why I was there, but it was a discussion of cancer. I looked around at the people who had raised their hands. It wasn’t until the speaker moved on that I realized I was a cancer survivor, too.

Does that seem strange? But my first cancer in 2004 was so ambiguous. I had had a routine Pap test, and was referred to a gynecologist. I had had problematic Pap tests before, and it had usually meant I had a uterine polyp or a vaginal infection. This time it was not simple dysplasia. It seems I had precancerous cells, and the recommended treatment was a hysterectomy. I thought about it, and my sister discussed it with a friend who was also a gynecologist, and reported back that surgery was indeed the treatment of choice.


How was I supposed to relate to a cancer diagnosis that was made only after the cancer was out of my body?


I was over 50, and had pretty much gone through menopause, though once or twice a year I would have some bleeding. Everything about my reproductive system was ambiguous. I had started menstruating at age 9, along with the body changes of puberty, but seldom had my periods. When I was 18 and starting to move beyond my circumscribed Jewish Bronx upbringing, I was diagnosed with Stein-Leventhal syndrome. Great, I thought, I finally get a diagnosis, and it’s Jewish! Since that time, the condition has been renamed polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS. PCOS is a risk factor for many other diseases, including endometrial cancer.

But let’s get back to the hysterectomy. I had already decided that I would have the surgery when my sister got back to me. What had my uterus done for me lately, anyway? I had the doctors make the arrangements, met with the surgeon, and went through all the pre-surgery rigmarole. I made plans to stay with a friend for about a week after surgery, and checked into the hospital. When I woke up afterward, I was told that the biopsy that was done during surgery had been negative. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Corin Hammond for State Representative, LD 11

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 need to have been registered to vote by August 1. Missed the deadline? You can still register online for November’s general election. Make your voice heard in 2016!

Corin Hammond croppedArizona’s Legislative District 11 covers an area northwest of Tucson that includes Marana, Oro Valley, Catalina, and Picture Rocks, extending as far north as Maricopa City. The district is currently represented in the House by Republicans Mark Finchem and Vince Leach. The district — or the district that preceded it, which covered much of the same area — has in the past been represented by Democrats or by moderate-to-liberal Republicans, and I know that we can be again.

Corin Hammond is running for an LD 11 seat in the House. She generously answered our questions on July 25, 2016.


“The right to make decisions regarding one’s own body is essential to the American values of opportunity and freedom.”


Tell us a little about your background.

I am a 31-year-old finishing my Ph.D. in soil and water chemistry at the University of Arizona. I have a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Louisiana State University and a master’s degree in inorganic chemistry from the University of Arizona. I was born in Corvallis, Oregon, but moved all over the country including Las Cruces, New Mexico, Fairfax, Virginia, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Narragansett, Rhode Island. Now I live in Marana, Arizona, with my husband, David, and my baby girl, Summer, who will turn 2 in September. We have two dogs, Winston and Hazel.

What kind of beneficial legislation would you like to see introduced, and why do you think it’s important to fight for it?

Allocating funding for public education at a nationally competitive rate will allow Arizona to achieve high-performing public education programs at all levels. High-performing public education for pre-K-12 is a cornerstone to reducing crime rates, ending the cycle of poverty, and developing a skilled workforce that will attract high-tech business development to Arizona and bring good, high-paying jobs to our state. State-funded all-day pre-K and kindergarten programs are essential to closing the gender wage gap. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Ralph Atchue for State Senator, LD 11

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!

atchueArizona’s Legislative District 11 covers an area northwest of Tucson that includes Oro Valley, Picture Rocks, Marana, and Catalina, and extends as far north as Casa Grande. Steve Smith is our current senator, known for his anti-choice record and involvement in the 2013 lawsuit that sought to eliminate Arizona’s Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.


“Reality-based comprehensive sex education is necessary if we are serious about reducing STDs and unwanted pregnancies.”


This district, or the previous district that covered much of this area, has been represented by Democrats in the past in both the state Senate and the House, and can be again. I was therefore pleased to interview Ralph Atchue, who is running in LD 11 to unseat Sen. Smith.

Mr. Atchue generously took the time to answer our questions on July 10, 2016.

Tell us a little about your background.

[I’m a] 33-year employee of the United States Postal Service — all in Illinois. [I’ve spent] 12 years [as] steward and local president with the National Association of Letter Carriers, and 21 years representing the National Association of Postal Supervisors. Retired as a postmaster.

[I’m a] four-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force. Moved to Arizona in 2005. Worked as a volunteer in campaigns from 2006 to 2014 — Obama, Kirkpatrick, McGuire campaigns. Worked for the past three years with others to rebuild the Casa Grande Democrats — [I have served as] secretary/treasurer, Democratic P.C., and member of the ADP state committee. Continue reading