Affirming the Autonomy of Indigenous Women

November is National American Indian Heritage Month. As we celebrate the positive sides of Indigenous Nations’ histories, we must acknowledge that the U.S. government has both robbed Native Americans of their land and, through the policies of the Indian Health Service division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, made it difficult for Indigenous people to access quality health care.

Indian Health Service (IHS) was established in 1955 with the stated goal of improving the health care of Native Americans living on reservations. However, Indigenous women who came into IHS clinics for something as common as vaccinations were often sterilized without their consent. During the 1960s and 1970s, 25 to 50 percent of women who visited IHS clinics (approximately 3,406 women) were sterilized without their knowledge. Methods of sterilization included partial or full hysterectomies, and tubal ligations.


Bodily autonomy is about having the power to decide for oneself whether and when to bear children.


The IHS had a clear objective: population control (aka “genocide”). Census data collected during the 1970s showed that Native Americans had birthrates that were much higher than white communities. According to census data, the average American Indian woman had 3.79 children, while white women had 1.79 children. The 1980 census revealed that the average birthrate for white women was 2.14, while the birthrate for Indigenous women was 1.99. You don’t have to be a math whiz to see that this is a drastic contrast.

Myla Vicenti Carpio, a professor of American Indian studies at Arizona State University, explains: Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Athena Salman for State Representative, LD 26

The Arizona general election will be held on November 8, 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 election, you must have been registered to vote by October 10. Make your voice heard in 2016!

athena-salman-scaledLegislative District 26, which includes Tempe, Mesa, Phoenix, and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, is the home of Arizona State University, where Athena Salman got her start in student government. She now seeks a seat in the Arizona House of Representatives, where she hopes to continue LD 26’s tradition of fighting for such important causes as education, reproductive justice, LGBTQ equality, and immigrants’ rights.


“Sex education empowers young people to make informed decisions and leads to healthier communities.”


Some might say that Athena Salman was destined to dedicate her life to serving her community: Her mother named her after the Greek goddess because “the world needed more heroines.” Her activism began in childhood, blossomed in college when she organized fellow students to protest budget cuts to universities, and continues to this day. Her recent work has centered around increasing voter engagement among Latinos — campaigns that ultimately increased Latino voter registration by 500 percent — as well as empowering girls and young women through her involvement with Girl Scouts. Once in the House of Representatives, she will continue to fight for women’s rights, voting rights, and keeping education accessible to all Arizonans — “from cradle to career,” as she says on her website.

In LD 26, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona recommends casting your two votes for House of Representatives for Athena Salman and Isela Blanc, candidates dedicated to social justice and making Arizona a better place for everyone. Ms. Salman generously took the time to answer our questions on October 21, 2016.

Tell us a little about your background.

I am a native Arizonan and community leader. I have worked tirelessly to strengthen the fabric of our communities. This year, I was presented with Tempe’s MLK Diversity Award for my experience advocating for women, education, working families, and immigrants. In light of severe budget cuts to education I organized hundreds of students to protest and pass state legislation. I have worked on several successful campaigns to expand Latino voter engagement, served as a union shop steward, empowered women and girls through Girl Scouts, built community support for early childhood development through First Things First, and authored national health care and higher education policy. I graduated magna cum laude from Arizona State University with degrees in economics and political science. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Isela Blanc for State Representative, LD 26

The Arizona general election will be held on November 8, 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 election, you must have been registered to vote by October 10. Make your voice heard in 2016!

isela-blanc-scaledIsela Blanc knows how important it is that our governments work for us by supporting the means for us to better ourselves. Her family came to Arizona from Mexico when she was 6 years old, and she was educated by Tempe’s public school systems, eventually becoming the first in her family to attend Arizona State University — all during years “while our state invested in education,” as she points out on her website. So, Ms. Blanc knows firsthand what’s at stake when lawmakers decide to let quality education slide further down their list of priorities.


“Women should not have to answer to anyone when making a decision related to their bodies or their health.”


Education is a major aspect of Ms. Blanc’s platform. She worries that Arizona is winning the “race to the bottom,” as $1 billion in cuts to education spending have resulted in fewer teachers, counselors, and school nurses; swelling classroom sizes; and shrinking after-school programs. As she tells us here, comprehensive sex education is just one part of a quality education, and she hopes to see it return to classrooms across the state.

Ms. Blanc seeks a seat in the Arizona House of Representatives, on behalf of Legislative District 26, which includes Tempe, Mesa, Phoenix, and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. She generously took the time to answer our questions on October 1, 2016.

Tell us a little about your background.

I began as a volunteer serving on school site councils, participating in the PTA, and serving on a little league board. These opportunities drew me to education and my community. I managed early childhood programs through Tempe Community Council. I worked with First Things First to build awareness around the importance of the first five years. I have facilitated for various Arizona State University programs that focus on engaging families to provide them the tools and skills to support their child’s academic achievements. Continue reading

Abstinence-Only Is a Failure to Educate

Editor’s Note: The following post was written by Julie, one of Planned Parenthood Arizona’s interns. Julie is an Arizona State University student majoring in biological anthropology and women and gender studies. She has a passion for women’s reproductive health, and hopes one day to pursue medical school and become a provider for an organization like Planned Parenthood.

college studentsHow well do college students feel their sex education prepared them for navigating relationships in college and coming into their sexuality?

Though many young people begin dating in high school, college is the time when a lot of relationships flourish and students begin to explore their own sexuality. The experience can be exhilarating, like navigating a battlefield of hookups and breakups without the threat of a curfew.


Abstinence-only programs fail students, who need accurate information to make informed decisions to protect their health.


Facing the dating scene in college can be scary as well, especially for those who didn’t have the chance to learn about sexuality or how to form healthy relationships while still at home. Many schools across the country teach only abstinence to students, and this can leave them ill-prepared to make healthy decisions when they face real-world situations.

Bailey W., an ASU women and gender studies student, describes her experience with sex ed in primary school as anything but comprehensive. Her school provided the abstinence-only education common in schools across Arizona and many other areas of the country. These programs advocate for heterosexual, monogamous marriages as the only appropriate settings for sexual interaction.

For Bailey, this created an unhealthy mental perception of sex that followed her into college. “I felt guilty about my sexuality because I was always taught that there are only two options: Don’t be sexual and stay safe, or be sexual and put yourself at extreme risk of ruining your whole life.” She admitted she didn’t know much about birth control until she came to college, and her first boyfriend basically taught her about her own anatomy. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Terry Goddard for Arizona Secretary of State

The Arizona general election will be held on November 4, 2014. 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 general election, you must register to vote by October 6 — and can even register online. Make your voice heard in 2014!

Terry_Goddard 2014Terry Goddard is running for Arizona secretary of state — one of eight executive positions that are open during the 2014 general election. This seat is currently held by Ken Bennett, who is barred from running for re-election under Arizona’s term-limit restrictions. As attorney general under Gov. Janet Napolitano and Gov. Jan Brewer from 2003 to 2011, state director for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development from 1995 to 2002, and four-time mayor of Phoenix from 1983 to 1990, Mr. Goddard is no stranger to Arizona politics.

The secretary of state is the first in line to succeed the governor in the event of removal from office, and primarily serves as Arizona’s chief election official. In a time when states are actively working to mandate strict voter registration laws to disenfranchise voters under the guise of minimizing voter fraud, it is essential that Arizona elect a secretary of state who understands Arizona from the ground up. As secretary of state, Mr. Goddard will ensure that we all retain our right to vote for individuals who will serve on our behalf and protect our basic human rights.

Mr. Goddard was kind enough to talk to us on September 22, 2014.


“One of Arizona’s greatest strengths is our diversity. We should celebrate it, not demonize it.”


Tell us a little about your background.

I am an Arizona native and ASU College of Law graduate. I am proud to have served on active duty in the U.S. Navy. I retired as a commander after 27 years in the Naval Reserve.

I was elected mayor of Phoenix four times, serving from 1983 to 1990. In those years, the city greatly increased citizen participation, expanded and modernized law enforcement, revitalized downtown, and set up nationally recognized programs in economic development, the arts, and historic preservation. During that time, we worked closely with Planned Parenthood to control potentially highly disruptive demonstrations at clinics and protect the rights of women patients. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Rebecca Rios for State Representative, LD 27

The Arizona primary election will be held on August 26, 2014, but early voting starts today! 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.”  Make your voice heard in 2014!

A fourth generation Arizonan, Rebecca Rios lives in South Phoenix with her husband and three children. Earning both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work from Arizona State University, she used her social services experience to help set her priorities when she served in the Arizona House of Representatives from 1995 to 2001 and in the Arizona State Senate from 2005 to 2011. In addition to Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, Ms. Rios’ endorsements include organizations such as the Arizona Women’s Political Caucus, Emily’s List, Stonewall Democrats, Arizona Nurses Association, and Equality Arizona.

In 2014, Ms. Rios seeks to represent Legislative District 27, an area that includes portions of southern Phoenix, including Laveen and South Mountain.

She was kind enough to take the time for an interview on July 21, 2014.


The warrantless inspection bill “was a legislative ‘solution’ in search of a problem that did not exist.”


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

Arizona needs to address public school financing in Arizona so that we are adequately supporting public education, teachers, and providing students the resources necessary to succeed.

Why do you think it’s important that people make their own health care decisions?

The ability for women to make health care decisions without government intrusion is a personal freedom that must be protected at all costs. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: David Garcia for Superintendent of Public Instruction

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.”  Make your voice heard in 2014!

In his campaign for the statewide office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Dr. David Garcia has declared that he will work for innovation in Arizona’s public schools. Backed by appropriate resources — including positive leadership and responsible funding — this would provide better future opportunities to all Arizonans. Included is his commitment to ensure that students are getting the comprehensive, relevant information they need to best make decisions about all aspects of their lives.

As a public high school teacher, I know that my students’ sexual and reproductive health care education is an integral part of their overall education and empowerment. For instance:

  • If I never have another student ask me, “Miss, do you need to be a certain age to buy condoms?” or, “Where can I buy a pregnancy test?” — it will be too soon.
  • In my decade of teaching, I have seen more and more students being comfortable openly identifying as gay — and that’s awesome. But certain portions of our health curriculum, by law, do not allow health teachers to say that being gay is OK — or to give these students the complete and accurate information that is necessary to ensure their sexual health and safety.
  • I have had too many students who were abused as younger children and simply never had the correct words — in terms of consent, in terms of bodily autonomy — to name the wrong for what it was. Consequently, the abuse was long-lasting and the healing slow in coming.

When we empower our children to feel secure in their bodies and their identities, we empower them to pursue their educations, goals, and ambitions. In that light, I am pleased that PPAA has endorsed a candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction — because who we have in that office matters — and even more pleased that they endorsed David Garcia.

Dr. Garcia was kind enough to take the time for this interview on July 25, 2014. Please also check out our followup interview with Dr. Garcia, in which he spoke to us in more detail about his opponent in the general election, Diane Douglas.


“Planned Parenthood Advocates has taken a bold stance on changing state level leadership. I greatly admire and respect an organization that has the courage to call out policymakers not working for the greater good of Arizonans.”


Tell us a little about yourself.

I’ve devoted my career to improving public schools because I believe public education is the great equalizer in society and the reason I obtained the American Dream.

My dad was a commercial painter and my mom a factory worker. I grew up in Mesa, in a neighborhood where my parents still live. I wasn’t a great student, and it took enlisting in the Army for me to turn my life around and get serious about school. After the Army, I attended Arizona State University, becoming the first in my family to graduate from college. I went on to earn a doctorate in education policy studies from the University of Chicago. Continue reading