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.

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!

Arizona’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

Meet Our Candidates: Ken Clark for State Representative, LD 24

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!

Our candidate interviews usually focus on Planned Parenthood’s core concerns, like reproductive health, sex education, and reproductive choice. This interview is an exception. Rep. Clark was interviewed in 2014 on these issues, and has been an ally during his term in the House, where he represents Central Phoenix’s Legislative District 24.


“There are enough people in this state that if 5,000 people collected one petition, we’d get this done.”


Recently, however, he has been instrumental in trying to repeal a law passed at the end of this session, SB 1516, that makes it easier for dark money to influence our elections. Dark money is money used by groups like nonprofit organizations, corporations, or labor unions for political purposes. At issue is whether and how such groups have to reveal the sources of their funds. Instead of writing a separate piece on dark money, we decided to use today’s installment of our Meet Our Candidates series to shine a light on the issue. Planned Parenthood believes in the importance of fair and clean elections that accurately represent the will of the people.

You can learn more about dark money at Stop Corruption Now. Rep. Clark generously took the time to answer our questions via telephone on July 5, 2016.

When I moved to Arizona 20 years ago, I was impressed with the way elections here were run, especially that candidates could use public monies to finance their campaigns, for a more equal playing field. So I’ve been very disturbed by attacks on the system in recent years, including SB 1516, which was passed at the end of this legislative session and signed into law without much discussion. Can you tell us what this law does that is so damaging to our elections?

Senate Bill 1516 completely wipes out our previous campaign finance statute, and replaces it with something that will allow people to hide money in our political system, and in doing so, threaten politicians and blackmail them to get them to do what they want. So it’s an unprecedented change, and it doesn’t matter what issue you care the most about — if this law stays in place, your issue will be affected, because you will no longer have a Legislature that acts based on the merits of the law; with this law in place, it will act based on who has the most money and who is threatening whom. Continue reading

Reproductive Justice?

President Bill Clinton stands by as Ruth Bader Ginsburg is sworn in as associate Supreme Court Justice in 1993

President Bill Clinton stands by as Ruth Bader Ginsburg is sworn in as associate Supreme Court justice in 1993

When Justice Antonin Scalia died on February 13, 2016, it was the death of more than just one man. For the first time in 20 years, the fairly reliable conservative tilt of the Supreme Court vanished. Now there were four generally liberal justices, three remaining consistently conservative justices, and Anthony Kennedy, a moderate who, though usually conservative, could move to the left, especially on social issues, as we saw in his eloquent opinion in support of same-sex marriage. If Kennedy voted with the conservatives, it would result in a tie, not a 5-4 decision. In case of a tied vote on the Supreme Court, the lower court ruling holds, and if there are conflicting rulings in different circuits, we continue with different law in different parts of the country.

Or the court could order a rehearing of a case once a new justice is seated.


The makeup of the Supreme Court is a glaring example of how much is at stake in presidential elections.


The political wheels started turning immediately. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell almost immediately announced that Scalia’s seat should be filled after “the American people” weigh in during the presidential election — Republicans always seem to forget that the American people have already weighed in twice by making Barack Obama president. This categorical rejection of any Obama nominee, no matter who, is unprecedented. Scalia’s seat was apparently sacred, and could only fairly be filled by a Republican appointee. McConnell does not seem to consider that the next president might also be a Democrat.

The change in the balance of the court was apparent in the first of two cases concerning reproductive health that were scheduled to be heard this month. (The second case, Zubik v. Burwell, will be argued on March 23.) At SCOTUSblog, Lyle Denniston analyzed the oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. It was always clear that the outcome would hinge on Justice Kennedy, and, before Scalia’s death, that in all likelihood the Texas law requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, and abortion clinics to meet ambulatory surgical clinic requirements, would be upheld. Continue reading

Book Club: Living in the Crosshairs

CrosshairsLiving in the Crosshairs is an important and terrifying book that was published last year by Oxford University Press. Its authors are David S. Cohen, a law professor at Drexel University who also sits on the boards of the Women’s Law Project and the Abortion Care Network, and Krysten Connon, who graduated from Drexel Law School in 2012, and is now an attorney in Philadelphia. In it, they look at targeted harassment of abortion providers. This is different from the protests we may think of outside abortion clinics, which are aimed at the clinic, or the women seeking abortions, or the issue in general. Targeted threats and attacks are aimed at individuals who work in the clinics. They are personal.

The title comes from a story of one provider’s dealings with the legal authorities. He describes one protest at the clinic where he works, where:

… a new sign displayed Paul’s picture in crosshairs. “I was just shocked that that was legal. I just can’t see how that’s fair.” Paul contacted the FBI about the targeted protest, particularly in light of the sign with the crosshairs. “They said it’s perfectly legal. The protesters could do that, and they could do worse.”

This incident shows the way abortion providers are targeted, literally and figuratively, by anti-abortion activists, and is a representative example of the stories told by the people interviewed for this report. In all, 87 providers were contacted, and 82 of them agreed to be interviewed at length. The authors included doctors, administrators, and other medical and non-medical staff who work where abortions are performed. Non-medical staff are also targets; as the authors point out, of eight providers murdered by anti-abortion killers, four were doctors; the others included two receptionists, a security guard, and a volunteer escort. And more recently, we’ve seen in Colorado Springs that people unrelated to a clinic can also be killed in anti-abortion violence. The danger is great; almost all of those interviewed chose to use false names, and to have details that could identify them changed as well. Continue reading

Out of Limbo: An Interview With Kent Burbank

Kent Burbank (left) and his family

Marriage equality for same-sex couples has come about partly through court decisions finding against states that have passed laws or constitutional amendments defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

In Arizona, the case was Majors v. Jeanes (formerly Majors v. Horne), which included seven couples and two widowed members of couples. One of the couples in the case was Kent Burbank and Vicente Talanquer, who had adopted two sons. Since Arizona did not allow two “unrelated” individuals to adopt jointly, only one of the fathers — Vicente — had been able to legally adopt. And when the couple was legally married in Iowa, that marriage was not recognized in Arizona, meaning that Kent still could not be a legal father to his sons. Only after the decision in Majors v. Jeanes on October 17, 2014, was he finally able to adopt his sons. His family is one of the first in Arizona in which both parents in a same-sex couple were legally able to adopt their children jointly.


“Vicente became the legal father. I had to, essentially, be nothing.”


Kent Burbank, who was once on the board of directors of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, agreed to share his experiences with the adoption process, the lawsuit, and his marriage. I was very interested in interviewing him: I am also an adoptive parent, and since I adopted as a single mom, mine was also viewed as a non-traditional adoption. As we talked, I found we had experiences in common, but that some of what we faced was quite different.

Our meeting took place at the library in downtown Tucson, on January 5, 2015.

Arizona only allowed husband and wife to adopt jointly. Is that why you got involved with the lawsuit?

Our primary purpose for joining the lawsuit, speaking just for my husband and I, was about getting the ability to have both of us recognized as legal parents. When we went through the adoption process we had to do everything that a married, heterosexual couple would have had to have done — background checks, lengthy histories on both of us, statements about why we both want to adopt — and at the very end they said, “Oh, so sorry. Arizona doesn’t allow unmarried, gay couples to adopt.” Continue reading