Meet Our Candidates: Dr. Richard Carmona for U.S. Senator

The Arizona general election will be held on November 6, 2012, with early voting starting on October 11. After the many recent legislative challenges to reproductive health care access, both nationally and statewide, the importance of voting in November can’t be overstated. To help voters, Planned Parenthood Action Fund has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive health and freedom. Along with those endorsements, we are spotlighting our endorsed candidates in a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” To vote in the general election, you must register to vote by October 9 — and can even register online. Make your voice heard in 2012!

When announcing Dr. Richard Carmona’s endorsement by Planned Parenthood Action Fund, President Cecile Richards said that “Arizona women need a champion who has long fought to protect and promote women’s health representing them in Washington” — and as a former U.S. surgeon general, Carmona is uniquely positioned to advocate for scientifically driven, rather than agenda-driven, policies on health and medicine.


“Health care should not be politicized.”


Carmona already has experience fighting for evidence-based health policy in an increasingly polarized political climate. After leaving his position as surgeon general, Carmona testified before Congress that the George W. Bush administration continually hampered his attempts to present scientifically sound public health policy when it conflicted with their political agenda. As Carmona said in his testimony, the Bush administration silenced him on many issues, including emergency contraception and comprehensive sex education — and the public was denied access to the latest unbiased evidence on important public health issues.

Carmona is running against Republican challenger Jeff Flake to succeed Jon Kyl as U.S. senator from Arizona. Flake’s congressional voting record is problematic, and includes support for an amendment to the Affordable Care Act to prohibit abortion coverage, support for defunding Planned Parenthood, and a vote against expanding the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

As a U.S. senator, Carmona can bring his lifetime of experience as a physician and public-health expert to the legislature. When it comes to our medical care, no matter our political affiliations, we all need access to the best scientific evidence, and we need someone who will be a champion for our health in the U.S. Senate.

Dr. Carmona generously took time for an interview with us via telephone on October 3, 2012.


Many of us, including myself, are becoming increasingly concerned about the hostility toward science exhibited by some of our current lawmakers. What can you do to inject reason and scientific evidence into an increasingly politicized discourse about public health?

Well, first and foremost, if you remember my tenure as surgeon general, I had to do that. There was a lot of ideological, nonscientific-driven sentiment, and when necessary I stood up and I addressed the issues appropriately. It wasn’t a perfect world, especially when you have many of those ideologues thinking differently, but nevertheless, I will do the same thing as a senator.

And I think I enter the Senate with, if you will, the imprimatur of being a surgeon general and a trauma surgeon and a registered nurse and a paramedic. I bring all those years of cumulative science to the table as I discuss things with my colleagues. And although they may be ideologically driven, and I will certainly acknowledge their personal beliefs, that’s not science and it’s not fact. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Manuel Cruz for Mayor of Glendale

The Arizona general election will be held on November 6, 2012, with early voting starting on October 11. After the many recent legislative challenges to reproductive health care access, both nationally and statewide, the importance of voting in November can’t be overstated. To help voters, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive health and freedom. Along with those endorsements, we are spotlighting our endorsed candidates in a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” To vote in the general election, you must register to vote by October 9 — and can even register online. Make your voice heard in 2012!

Manuel Cruz, mayoral candidate in the City of Glendale, made time for an interview with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona volunteer Liza Love on September 16, 2012. Read further to find out why we endorse his candidacy!


It speaks volumes that Manuel Cruz, a busy father, husband, businessman, and community leader who also happens to be in the full swing of his campaign, has also made us a priority. But it is through these many lenses that Cruz is fully able to understand the needs of Glendale residents and have the utmost regard for the people he seeks to serve. His comprehension of the issues ranges from Glendale policy and economics, to LGBTQ rights, health-care access, and family planning. There is no topic that this candidate is not ready to take on.

It is clear why Mayor of Phoenix Greg Stanton said the following when endorsing Cruz in July:

Manuel Cruz is exactly the kind of person that the people of Glendale need as their next mayor. He has the heart, passion, vision, and work ethic to lead the city beyond its current challenges and toward a strong future — and is committed to doing so in a transparent manner, engaging the citizens of Glendale every step of the way. When neighboring cities do well, we all do well, and I look forward to working with Manuel Cruz to build a robust, diverse regional economy that benefits us all.


“Choices made regarding one’s health care are best left to … the person making the choice and that person’s physician.”


“As a longtime Glendale resident, and fourth generation Arizonan, I am committed to my family, friends, neighbors, and citizens of Glendale,” Cruz told us. He currently serves as a volunteer commissioner on the Glendale Neighborhood Commission, Committee on Neighborhood Grants, Water and Sewer Rate Task Force, and as a volunteer board member for several area nonprofits, including the Arizona Advocacy Network.

Cruz, who has a blended family of five children with his spouse Valerie Revering, not only has a firm grasp on the economic and political needs in Glendale, he also has an understanding of what real families in Glendale are dealing with in every aspect of life, including health care and family-planning access, comprehensive sex-education reform, and domestic partnership rights for Glendale residents and city workers. Continue reading

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • News that should surprise no one: Abortions in Arizona are up 25 percent this year. Thank you, Jan Brewer and our craptastic legislators. (AZ Daily Sun)
  • Oh, but the Center for Arizona Policy (aka big time anti-choice lobby) disagrees with these facts. (East Valley Tribune)
  • Women are befuddled about birth control and I can’t help but wonder why. It’s not like our education system focuses mostly on only teaching abstinence, or that most parents don’t take the time to talk about sex and reproductive health with their children! #Sarcasm (Toronto Sun)
  • Speaking of parents failing their children with regard to sex ed … (Think Progress)
  • Dear anti-choicers: All of the roadblocks you put in front of women seeking abortions — mandatory ultrasounds, various arbitrary waiting periods, forcing them to listen to propaganda prior to having an abortion — ultimately have no effect on abortion rates. Know why? Because they don’t get to the core of why women have abortions. These obstacles are rooted in the false assumption that women are ignorant and not fully capable of making proper decisions about their bodies, and thus need to be educated about abortion. Because none of those things is true, your tactics, predictably, are failing to do what you intended them to do — reduce abortions. Feel free to try again, but only with tactics that are considerably less stupid. For instance, access to affordable contraception and comprehensive sex ed. That’d be a good start! (Salon)
  • Ann Romney does not wish to discuss serious world issues like birth control or same-sex marriage because those topics are not what this election is about. She’d much rather talk about what kind of husband and father Mitt is. After all, that’s what is on the minds of Americans. Is Mitt a nice dad? Is he good to his wife? Then obviously he’s qualified to lead the nation and serve as commander in chief. Duh. She also says those issues distract from the real issues: jobs and the economy. (WaPo)
  • Uh, Earth to Ann: Birth control is an economic issue. A woman’s ability to control her own fertility will be the most important factor in dictating her professional and socio-economic status. (Jezebel)
  • “Forcible rape” language is still all the rage among the anti-choice crowd. This time it’s New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, who proposes the state needs proof of “forcible rape” in applications for child care assistance. I wish this were some kind of a joke. (RH Reality Check)

Abstinence-Only Education Gives Birth to Arizona’s High Teen Pregnancy Rate

Arizona has an especially high teen-pregnancy rate. Arizona also promotes abstinence-only education in its public schools.

Arizona is known for a lot of things. The Grand Canyon, our universities, beautiful sunsets.

And, oh yeah, our truly awful teen pregnancy rate.

Ranked against the other 49 states, Arizona’s teen-pregnancy rate has been in the top 5 for years. And while you probably won’t see that fact emblazoned on a license plate anytime soon, teen pregnancy still has a significant impact on Arizona residents.


Abstinence-only education teaches to prevent pregnancy and STDs by abstaining from sex, which isn’t helpful to the 70 percent of teenagers who have had intercourse by age 19.


As of 2009, Arizona had the fifth highest teen birth rate in the United States. This trend is on the rise — as of 2006 the rate had increased by 6.5 percent. In 2009, 12,537 teenagers became pregnant. Of those pregnancies, 10,952 resulted in live births. While the majority of those women were either 18 or 19, that’s still about 3,500 girls under the age of 17 giving birth, a number that varies every year but generally stays in the 4000s. Continue reading

STD Awareness: “Can I Get an STD from Oral Sex?”

As tools to reduce risk for STD transmission, dental dams are not to be ignored.

Editor’s Note: Other posts of interest to readers include: “Gonorrhea of the Throat,” “Oral Herpes,” “Can Oral Herpes Be Spread to Genitals?,” and “Can Oral Sex Cause Throat Cancer?

Many consider oral sex to be a safer form of sexual activity compared to vaginal or anal intercourse. For this reason, they might put less emphasis on the use of latex barriers, such as dental dams and condoms, during oral sex. Unfortunately, this idea is misguided and can lead to the transmission of preventable infections.

It is generally true that oral sex presents less of a risk for contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) — but this risk is not trivial, especially when people are under the impression that they don’t need to use barrier methods during oral sex. Most sexually transmitted diseases can be passed along by oral sex, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, hepatitis B, herpes (which can be transmitted back and forth from the mouth, as cold sores, to the genital region, as genital herpes), human papillomavirus (HPV), and HIV. Even pubic lice can be transferred from the genital region to eyelashes and eyebrows! Additionally, intestinal parasites are more likely to be transmitted via oral sex than through vaginal sex. A microscopic amount of fecal matter containing parasites can be infectious, and can be unknowingly ingested when present on genitals.


Seventy percent of adolescents who reported engaging in oral sex had never used a barrier to protect themselves from STDs during oral sex.


Some bacterial STDs, such as gonorrhea and syphilis, can do permanent damage if not treated in time. Furthermore, gonorrhea of the throat is much more difficult to treat than gonorrhea in the genital or rectal areas. And some viral STDs can’t be cured (such as herpes and HIV), while others can cause chronic infections that have been linked to cancer (such as hepatitis, which is associated with liver cancer, and HPV, which is associated with throat cancer as well as cervical cancer and anal cancer). Continue reading

Support Comprehensive Sex Ed to Support Queer Youth

Since today is National Coming Out Day, I want to shine the spotlight on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and queer (LGBTQ) youth. In the past few weeks, the headlines have been filled with stories about LGBTQ teen suicides, and bullying in our schools.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, LGBTQ youth are four times as likely to commit suicide as their heterosexual peers, mainly as a result of the negative attitudes about LGBTQ people that are so pervasive in our culture.

Arizona is not immune to the negative climate for queer youth in our schools.  One of the challenges is that Arizona schools do not offer comprehensive sex education.  Rather, they focus on abstinence-only-until-marriage curriculum.  Abstinence-only is a huge waste of money, and it’s harmful for all teens.  But let’s look at the particular problems that abstinence-only education creates for LGBTQ youth.

Arizona does not recognize the right of same-sex couples to get married. When LGBTQ youth hear that they should remain abstinent until marriage, they may interpret that message as not being applicable to their lives. As a result, they may have unprotected sex, since teens are not getting information about how to prevent sexually transmitted infections. Is it any wonder that 1 in 4 teens in the state of Arizona has a sexually transmitted infection?

Moreover, abstinence-only curriculum contributes to negative attitudes about LGBTQ people, because it assumes that heterosexuality is the norm. When LGBTQ teens are repeatedly told that they are abnormal, they may experience depression and other mental health effects. Is it any wonder that LGBTQ youth have such alarming suicide rates?

Planned Parenthood supports comprehensive sex education for all of Arizona’s youth. We also support candidates who will support our mission of promoting and protecting every person’s freedom and right to enjoy sexual health and well-being, to make reproductive choices, and build healthy, strong families.

Please lend your support to LGBTQ youth by voting for candidates who support comprehenisve sex education in our schools. Sex ed classes may be one of the few places that LGBTQ teens hear positive messages about themselves in the schools. And we owe it to our youth to send them a positive message. For a list of PPAA-endorsed candidates, check out our 2010 voter guide.