Meet Our Candidates: Barbara LaWall for Pima County Attorney

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!

Barbara LaWallIncumbent Barbara LaWall is running for reelection to continue serving as Pima County Attorney — a position she has held for five terms since first being elected in 1996. She was the first woman to hold that office, and she has used her position to bring her vision for the Pima County Attorney’s Office to life. Earlier this year, in a television interview with Jim Nintzel, she said that when her predecessor retired, she ran to fill his seat so she could “engage the community and forge relationships with neighborhoods and schools and businesses.” This kind of community outreach could allow the prosecutor’s office to give children the resources they needed to make good life decisions, steering potential criminals down a more productive path. Just as preventive health care saves money and anguish down the road, so too do programs designed to prevent crime from flourishing.


“The primary element of human liberty is the freedom to control our own bodies, and a major aspect of that is the freedom to make our own medical decisions.”


Despite the improvements that have been implemented over the past two decades, Ms. LaWall says she’s not ready to retire. As she told Nintzel, “I am still very much engaged in this office. It is my calling and my passion … I have a few more ideas that I’d like to bring to the office, and I’m ready to keep on going.” In the below interview, she elaborates on some of the positive changes she has made as Pima County Attorney, as well as some of the ideas she plans to enact during her next term.

Her work as Pima County’s top prosecutor was recognized earlier this year, when the Arizona Women Lawyers Association presented her with the 2016 Sarah Herring Sorin Award — an award that was named in honor of Arizona’s first female attorney, and that was given to Ms. LaWall “in recognition of her long-time support and encouragement for the advancement of women in the legal profession.”

Ms. LaWall’s candidacy is endorsed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, and on July 24, she kindly took the time to answer our questions about her record as Pima County attorney and her campaign for reelection.

Tell us a little about your background.

I grew up in Tucson. My grandparents on both sides were immigrants who came to this country to find the American dream. My parents were first generation Americans and the first in their families to graduate from high school. My dad was an auto parts salesman and my mom worked as a secretary on the airbase. My sister and I were the first generation to attend college. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Iisha Graves for State Representative, LD 13

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!

Iisha Graves scaledIisha Graves is running to represent Arizona’s 13th legislative district. Although two-thirds of LD 13’s constituents live in Maricopa County’s West Valley, in terms of pure acreage the district is largely rural, stretching as far north as Wickenburg and all the way to the foothills of Yuma in the west.

Although Ms. Graves is running unopposed in next month’s Democratic primary election, in November she will be vying with Republican candidates to fill one of two available House seats. One Republican who she is likely to face is Don Shooter, who is running for the House after serving three terms as a state Senator — a position he used to oppose birth control access and attempt to enshrine anti-LGBTQ discrimination into law.


“We need to invest smarter in areas like education, preventive health care, and mental health.”


Voters in LD 13 looking for a candidate who prioritizes health care, education, and compassion can cast their ballots for Iisha Graves, who generously took the time to answer our questions on July 14, 2016.

Tell us a little about your background.

I grew up in a family that struggled with addiction and abuse. Despite the challenges this created for me, I broke the cycle of abuse, educated myself, and created a different life for my children than the one I had. My experiences have shown me the importance of mental health, medical care, and social services in ensuring individuals and families thrive. For over 15 years I have been working with at-risk populations of youth and adults. My campaign is founded on the idea that it is time to mend our failing education system so that it serves all our students; to transform the for-profit prison industry into a for-people industry; and to remodel our justice system so that people struggling with addiction receive social services and medical care rather than criminal records. Continue reading

World AIDS Day: Fighting the Stigma Is Half the Battle

RibbonThey say words can never hurt you, but in certain parts of the world, there are three letters that can take away everything dear to you: HIV.

Can you imagine having your family disown you? What if doctors refused to treat you, even with basic care? What would it feel like if you were not allowed to pursue any form of education? How about if you had no possibility of a future with a romantic partner?


We will never make strides in preventing HIV transmission until we confront the taboos that surround it.


This is reality for millions of men, women, and children in sub-Saharan Africa who have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. As of 2013, that number was 24.7 million, which accounts for the vast majority of the world’s total reported cases, which by 2014 approached 37 million people, 2.6 million of whom were children. In 2013 alone, 1.5 million sub-Saharan Africans were newly infected. Since the first case was reported in 1981, a certain stigma has always lingered around the disease. Many in the United States refer to it as the “gay disease” or accuse those infected of bestiality. They may say that someone who has been diagnosed should avoid intimacy, believing that a person with HIV is incapable of functional relationships without infecting their partner. In Africa, the implications are even more harsh. Often believed to be a “curse from God,” many regions exile an infected person from their community.

Worse, the stigma does not stop with individuals. It bleeds into the legal, political, and economic arenas as well. This is true worldwide. Some places have prosecuted women for transmitting the virus to their child, or have prosecuted individuals for not disclosing their positive status even if they have reached an undetectable viral load through antiretroviral therapy (ART). The discrimination surrounding a positive diagnosis is cited as the primary hurdle in addressing prevention and care. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Matthew Cerra for State Representative, LD 16

Photograph of Matthew Cerra.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!

Born in Casa Grande, Matthew Cerra is an Arizona native. Since then, he’s spent many years working in both public and private education in Arizona as well as in the state’s penal system. Cerra is currently seeking to represent Legislative District 16, which includes the city of Apache Junction and the area of Gold Canyon, in the Arizona House of Representatives. He took the time for an interview with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona on September 3, 2012.


“It was bad enough for women who had to let husbands decide what choices were to be made … Can you imagine a government doing that as well?”


Tell us a little about your background.

I currently work as a company trainer — I provide information and training on many of the systems developed by the company I work for to its employees. Prior to this I worked in public and private education and I have worked in the private prison system as an addictions treatment specialist. My career has thus far focused on helping people to improve, helping them to achieve more with their lives.

As a child I lived through every abusive situation that a person can experience, many of these issues stemming from lack of proper family care and management. I have been a child “of the system,” I understand the need for help that many of our children have in families facing difficulties. By the time I was 12, I had testified against a stepfather in a felony abuse trial and was in foster care with my three sisters. Prior to that, I witnessed violence in the home and watched my mother be involved with domestic violence. So when I hear about politicians thinking of expedient ways to get rid of systems that kept me alive — saying they are a waste of resources — I take personal offense to that. I agree that parts of the system need changing. I also recognize that many save lives, and mine was one of them. Continue reading

Margaret Sanger in Tucson: “Daring to Live”

“When the marvel of the spring came to the desert, you saw the cactus and the flowering, saw the brown floor change to delicate pale yellow, stood in awe of nature daring to live without water. You were reminded of the futility of wearing out your life merely providing food and raiment. Like the challenge of death, which so many of the people there were gallantly facing, the desert itself was a challenge.” – Margaret Sanger on Tucson, in her autobiography

Margaret Sanger in 1959, with friend Grace Sternberg, returning to the United States after a trip to New Delhi, Sanger's final overseas trip.

Sanger in 1959, with friend Grace Sternberg, returning to the United States after a trip to New Delhi, Sanger’s final overseas trip.

Margaret Sanger moved to Tucson in the 1930s and soon thereafter decided to live here full time, believing that the warm climate was conducive to good health. During Sanger’s years in Tucson, she latched onto any health fad or other technique she thought might improve her health. She exercised and experimented with various diets, including fasting on juice; eating a combination of yogurt, wheat germ, and honey; taking vitamin E supplements; and eating papayas (which she had shipped from Hawaii) for their alleged “restorative substances.”

In 1949, however, Sanger suffered a heart attack, and her son Stuart, a doctor, injected her with Demerol, a recently introduced painkiller not considered addictive at the time. The next year she had a second heart attack, resulting in another long convalescence at the hospital. Her addiction to Demerol intensified; she got Stuart to write prescriptions for her, and would sometimes falsely claim that bottles of the drug had fallen and shattered, which would require further prescriptions to be written. If a nurse refused her demand for Demerol, Sanger would inject it herself. Her son tried to wean her from the drug by collecting empty bottles and filling them with a diluted concentration of the drug, slowly increasing the proportion of water to Demerol until the solution was pure water. This was effective for a while, but eventually Sanger realized she had been duped and endeavored to get her hands back on the drug. She went through other doctors, firing them when they would decrease her dosage, and eventually took to self-administering injections of pure water every 30 minutes. Her addiction, it seemed, was both to the drug itself and the psychological comforts of the injection.  Continue reading