Five Things to Know About the Morning-After Pill on Its 20th Anniversary

Medication portion of PREVEN Emergency Contraceptive Kit. Photo: Smithsonian Institution

In 1993, the New York Times Magazine posited that the morning-after pill might be “the best-kept contraceptive secret in America.” Even many doctors had no idea there was a fallback contraceptive that could be used shortly after unprotected sex or cases of rape.

In many ways, the morning-after pill had been right in front of U.S. doctors for decades. In terms of chemical composition, it was not much different from standard birth control, using the same main ingredients — synthetic hormones — in higher doses. Moreover, many of their colleagues in Europe and Asia had already been prescribing morning-after pills for years.


In 1998, years of research and advocacy led to the first FDA-approved morning-after pill.


Here, however, the secret was still largely intact. A 1994 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation revealed that two-thirds of American women had never heard of the morning-after pill or other forms of emergency contraception (EC). Less than 1 percent had ever used them.

There was an information shortfall in large part because there was no contraceptive that was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) specifically for emergency use. Some providers worked around that absence by using the chemically similar estrogen and progestin medications that were approved for regular birth control. By upping the dosage, they created a suitable morning-after pill on their own. But drug makers couldn’t label or market those birth-control pills for emergency, post-coital use, since they weren’t FDA-approved for that purpose. It also spelled problems for federally funded clinics. Federal dollars couldn’t pay for an off-label medication hack, a makeshift morning-after pill that wasn’t officially approved. Continue reading

STD Awareness: HPV Testing vs. the Pap Test

I love writing about health and medicine, but I hate going to the doctor. I don’t like taking my clothes off for a dermatological exam, I don’t like rolling my sleeve up for a shot, and I don’t like opening my mouth for a dentist. I don’t even like having my blood pressure taken — it gives me the heebie-jeebies, and probably a case of white-coat hypertension too.


For now, pelvic exams are a mainstay — and an important part of cancer prevention.


So when it comes to something even more invasive, like the Pap test to screen for cervical cancer, I’m one of those people pining for a magic wand — a tool that a health care provider can wave over your fully clothed body to detect disease. The Pap test may have transformed a scourge like cervical cancer into one of the most easily detected and treated cancers — and for that I love it — but I still fervently wish for its demise. As long as it’s replaced by something better, of course.

Last month, an article in JAMA inspired a burst of headlines. “HPV test more effective than Pap smear in cancer screening,” said CNN. Or as WebMD put it more succinctly, “HPV Test Beats Pap.” Then, last week, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force updated their guidelines to recommend that patients 30 and older can forgo the Pap test in favor of HPV testing alone. This news might be welcome to anyone who dislikes regular Pap tests and wishes to avoid stirrups and speculums. Unfortunately, HPV tests aren’t the noninvasive “magic wand” so many of us hope for. From the patient’s perspective, the experience of undergoing an HPV test is no different from the experience of undergoing a Pap test. They both require a pelvic exam — the stuff of stirrups and speculums. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Hazel Chandler for State Representative, LD 20

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!

A wealth of experience has brought Hazel Chandler to her current bid for the Arizona Legislature. A 40-year resident of Arizona, she is a longtime advocate for public education and social justice whose career spans decades in the government, nonprofit, and private sectors.

For Ms. Chandler, though, the focus is not on what’s behind her but on what’s ahead. Ms. Chandler holds degrees in early childhood development and management, and with those in her toolbox, she has spent much of her career working for the next generations of Arizonans. For eight years she served as the regional director of First Things First, an agency in Phoenix that promotes early childhood education and other measures to ensure the success and wellbeing of Arizona’s children. Along with school funding, Ms. Chandler has been an outspoken supporter of funding KidsCare and other programs to ensure that children’s health care needs are being met, regardless of household income. As she told the Arizona-based Children’s Action Alliance, “Providing children with health care needs to be a priority for our state.”


“It is our moral responsibility to make sure that everyone has access to affordable, quality health care, including reproductive care for women.”


Ms. Chandler’s focus on the future also means a commitment to a clean environment. As she states on her campaign website, environmental protection “isn’t just an issue, it is the entire context in which we have to make all our public policy decisions.” For her, creating a sustainable future is about conserving resources to meet long-term economic needs — as well as protecting people from the health effects of pollution and climate change.

In fact, much of Ms. Chandler’s platform — from her views on preventing crime to getting big money out of politics — circles back in some way to public health. Within that comprehensive view of health, she is also committed to reproductive justice. That conviction has helped garner the endorsements of Arizona List, the Arizona NOW Political Action Committee, and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Jennifer Jermaine for State Representative, LD 18

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.” Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Diego Rodriguez for State Representative, LD 27

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!

Diego Rodriguez is a passionate advocate for civil and human rights — whether he’s fighting for his clients as a defense attorney, or he’s fighting for working families. As a lifelong resident of Arizona’s Legislative District 27, he has centered his life on service to his community. In today’s political climate, LD 27 needs a leader who is willing to stand up and say “Enough!”


“The current political climate demands that we stand up for what we believe in.”


Legislative District 27 includes South Phoenix and Laveen and has historically been a solid Democratic stronghold. In recent years, however, Catherine Miranda, an opponent of abortion rights, has represented LD 27 — and has failed her constituents, the majority of whom support full access to reproductive health care.

When it comes to women’s health and medically accurate sex education, there is no question that Mr. Rodriguez will stand for Arizonans’ well being. LD 27 is home to a strong team of candidates who have earned Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona’s support. We have endorsed Diego Rodriguez and Reginald Bolding to fill the district’s two House seats, and Rebecca Rios to represent LD 27 in the Senate.

While catching up with the busy candidate, on August 2, 2018, he graciously answered some questions regarding his campaign and his vision for Arizona. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Joe Bisaccia for State Representative, LD 12

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!

Planned Parenthood supporters are in every legislative district in Arizona, including one of the reddest: Legislative District 12, which ranks behind only two other districts — 13 and 22 — as the most conservative in the state, and encompasses the San Tan Valley, cities like Gilbert, and eastern spans of Maricopa County. That didn’t stop Joe Bisaccia from getting into the race for the House of Representatives from LD 12. His is the voice we’re looking for!


“I will work for laws that ensure women retain the right to make their own health care decisions.”


Mr. Bisaccia, a middle-school robotics and technology teacher, has been on the front lines of what the Republican-run Legislature has done to shred public school funding. The impact of stripping billions — that’s “billions” with a “b” — from K-12 funding for public schools, the zeroing out of community college funding, and diverting taxpayer money to multiple “voucher” programs is felt deeply by public school teachers and their students. And, when high tech jobs opt to build and invest in other states because Arizona’s education system doesn’t elicit a lot of confidence, Arizonans are deprived of the good jobs they deserve.

As a middle school teacher, Mr. Bisaccia is also in a unique position to understand the value of medically accurate comprehensive sex education, including concepts like dating violence, consent, and anti-bullying techniques. He understands the value of having students respect personal boundaries, engage in understanding consent, and be able to make informed decisions about one’s future. He wants his kids to be successful, and medically accurate comprehensive sex education can offer ways to remain healthy and safe.

Mr. Bisaccia was gracious to enough to take a break from campaigning on July 30, 2018, to share his responses to our questions. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Matthew Marquez for State Senator, LD 20

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!

Legislative District 20 represents Northwest Phoenix and is a little on the red side; however, it had one of the highest early return rates for Democratic early votes in the 2016 election and the Congressional District 8 special election has galvanized networks, voters, and Democrats — which is a new feeling for Legislative District 20.


“I want to create change with you and be a voice for you.”


There are two contenders in the state Senate race, both completing our intersectional endorsement questionnaire with a score of 100 percent. The PPAA Board of Directors brings together a wide range of community members in making election decisions. Together, they evaluate candidates and campaigns to determine how to invest the dollars of our donors — and the sweat of our volunteers. PPAA supports candidates willing to stand and fight with Planned Parenthood, and given the current political environment with the reactivation of so many grassroots voters, we’re looking to Matthew Marquez to take the Senate seat in Legislative District 20, which is currently held by Sen. Michelle Yee, an infamous opponent of Planned Parenthood.

Mr. Marquez was gracious enough to share his responses with us as he took a break from campaigning on July 30, 2018.

Please tell us a little about your background and why you’re running for office right now in this political climate.

My story begins here, in Phoenix, with my mother. As a single parent, she took on the role of both my mother and my father, working several jobs but still making sure she was there in the morning to take us to school. She took my brother and I to all our practices and games, and supported us wholeheartedly. I don’t know how she did it but I know we had what we needed. My story, unfortunately, is not unique. Continue reading