On the Importance of Localized Electoral Work in Reproductive Rights

The following guest post was written by Mellie MacEachern, the SHARE (Sexual Health and Responsibility Education) organizer with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona. She has been with the organization for 11 months.

For many Arizonans, the local political landscape seems foreign or abstract, distant from their individual lives. It’s almost as though we’ve been intentionally persuaded to ignore what’s happening next door while we rile in anguish about what’s happening in Washington.

Year after year, Arizonans who care about reproductive choice hear about bills being introduced that specifically target reproductive health care in minute but aggressive ways. But it’s not easy to muster a fervent view about reporting procedures in health clinics that you may not even visit if you’re hearing about them after they’ve been voted on, or if you don’t know your representative in the state Legislature and you’re unsure how you, as an individual, can hold them accountable.


In 2014, anti-choice candidates in Arizona won by around 170,000 votes. Meanwhile, 193,000 likely pro-choice voters didn’t show up at the polls.


The interim between election years is also disheartening for those who are interested in engaging in the local political climate but don’t know how to go about holding their national elected officials accountable for their votes on the national stage. How many times can someone call their senator before they burn out, before they lose hope?

Since 2016, we’ve seen an unprecedented interest in support for reproductive choice and access to care. An overwhelming number of people want to engage, help, show up, and make sure their voices are heard. But for the individual voter, constituent, or citizen, it can seem as though that hard work may not lead to an opportunity to be seen and heard by the people you work to elect.

That’s where Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona (PPAA) comes into play. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Jennifer Pawlik for State Representative, LD 17

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 general election will be held November 6, 2018, with early voting beginning on October 10. Voters need to be registered by October 9 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!

Two years ago, when Jennifer Pawlik first ran for a seat in the Arizona House, the voters she met often doubted her chances of winning in such a red district. Pawlik lives in Legislative District 17, which spans the communities of Chandler, Sun Lakes, and part of Gilbert. Republicans have controlled LD 17’s House seats since the mid-1960s — and they’ve had a longstanding hold on its Senate seat as well.

Pawlik lost in a close race, though, and in this year’s election — her second bid to represent her district — she has seen growing optimism among her supporters. What has motivated Pawlik in both elections has been a desire to stand up for education in the state’s Legislature. A veteran educator herself, her concerns over education cuts prompted her to run in 2016. After this year’s #RedForEd movement, her platform resonates even more strongly today.


“I am fighting for access to affordable health care and affordable college education.”


For Pawlik, education is the foundation for everything that matters in this state. As she told the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce, “a well-educated workforce and excellent schools” will help attract businesses to Arizona — and prepare Arizonans to develop “innovative solutions … to address issues of drought, solar power, air pollution, and mass transit.”

Pawlik also sees public health as a key foundation for a better Arizona. Addressing poverty and improving access to health care are additional priorities she would take to the Legislature. Her commitment to Arizona’s health is why Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona is included in the long list of endorsements she’s received. Pawlik generously took the time to tell us more about her background and her candidacy on September 13.

Please tell us a little about your background.

I am an Arizona native, and a product of Arizona’s public schools. I’m an educator who has taught in Arizona’s public elementary schools for 17 years, and I am now teaching individuals enrolled in Northern Arizona University’s College of Education. In my final years in the classroom, some of my colleagues broke their contracts and left the field of education because they couldn’t afford to continue teaching. Many of us who continued to teach picked up other jobs outside of our contract time so that we could pay our bills. I decided that I needed to do something rather than just complain. In 2016, I decided to run for the Arizona House so I can make a positive impact on the way we fund our public schools. Despite losing that race by only 2.5 percent, I consider our work to be a small victory for my district because we were finally close to a win after years and years of work. My team and I took off just six weeks after the election and got back to work in January 2017. We have been actively contacting as many voters as possible since that time. Continue reading

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

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 general election will be held November 6, 2018, and with early voting beginning on October 10. Voters need to be registered by October 9 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 26 is a magnet for people who care about Arizona’s most pressing issues: reproductive justice, immigrants’ rights, LGBTQ equality, and strong public education. Given the deep pool of talent from which this district draws, it has a history of exciting legislators who fight for these values at the Capitol. Athena Salman is no exception. After a successful first term, she is running for reelection in order to continue representing her district, which includes Tempe, Mesa, Phoenix, and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.


“If we don’t remain diligent in protecting our rights, then the discrimination we see now will pale in comparison to what’s down the pipeline.”


When Salman began her first term in 2017, she soon joined women from both parties in accusing Rep. Don Shooter (R-Yuma) of sexual harassment. The story ended in February, when the House voted 56 to 3 to expel Rep. Shooter, an event that marked the first time a state lawmaker was ousted from office in the #MeToo era. Around the same time, Salman was making headlines for spearheading the #LetItFlow campaign, bringing awareness to female prisoners’ lack of adequate access to menstrual hygiene products. In both instances, Salman centered her actions on protecting the dignity of women everywhere in the state.

Thanks to her passionate advocacy for these and other issues during her first two years in office, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona is pleased to endorse Rep. Salman for a second term. She took the time to respond to our questions on September 18, 2018.

Since we last spoke, how has your commitment to serving Arizona grown? What has happened during that time to give you hope, and what has happened to strengthen your convictions?

My entire life, my mother’s entire life, even my grandmother’s entire life, for as long as we can remember, women have been harassed and shamed for exercising our constitutional right to reproductive health care and self-determination.

However, from #MeToo to #TimesUp we are seeing women from all backgrounds uniting and saying “Enough is enough!” With Roe v. Wade hanging in the balance, women are raising our voices in the one place where we are truly equal, the ballot, and making sure we are being heard loud and clear. Need proof? This primary election alone saw women in Maricopa County outnumber men in early voting by 65,000. As several have already stated, the future is female. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Stephanie Parra for Phoenix Union High School District Governing Board, Ward 3

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 general election will be held November 6, 2018, and with early voting beginning on October 10. Voters need to be registered by October 9 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!

Phoenix Union High School District is one of the largest high school districts in the country, with 20 schools, more than 27,000 students, and nearly 3,000 employees. Phoenix Union covers 220 square miles of Arizona’s capital city.

Stephanie Parra has served on the Phoenix Union High School District Governing Board for the past four years, representing PUHSD Ward 3. With Ms. Parra’s leadership, in October 2015, the Phoenix Union High School District Governing Board issued a resolution regarding inclusive comprehensive health education. Although they were proud that their newly comprehensive sex education policy was “a significant step forward,” they expressed regret that it was “not truly inclusive.” Despite the Governing Board’s wish to be inclusive of all students, including LGBTQ kids, an archaic state law — nicknamed “No Promo Homo” — has the district in a straitjacket. The school board has called this law “offensive” and “shaming,” and states that it “has no place in Arizona educational policy.”


“The more we can educate students about the importance of healthy relationships, the better prepared they will be when engaging in relationships.”


“No Promo Homo” refers to one of Arizona’s most disgraceful, archaic laws. The offensive language is planted in the HIV Prevention Education section of the law, stating that education shall not include “instruction which (1) promotes a homosexual life-style, (2) portrays homosexuality as a positive alternative life-style, (3) suggests that some methods of sex are safe methods of homosexual sex.” To be clear: The purpose of this law is to degrade and shame students who are already at a 40 percent increased risk of suicide. It does nothing to attain educational goals or protect the health or safety of students. Only six other states — and Russia — have laws similar to Arizona’s No Promo Homo law.

On August 30, 2018, Ms. Parra was gracious enough to take time from campaigning to share some of her story and vision for PUHSD.

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

I have dedicated my life to improving the lives of children and families in Arizona. I began my career in social work, advocating for children at risk of abuse, and quickly learned the critical role that educators play in the lives of our youth. That realization led me to a career in education and I have now found myself serving as a full-time public school advocate. 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: 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

On the Road to Marriage Equality in Mormon Country

Members of Mormons Building Bridges march in Salt Lake City pride parade, 2012. Photo: Jay Jacobsen

Earlier this summer, Imagine Dragons lead singer Dan Reynolds gave us an up-close look at the uphill battle for LGBTQ rights in the Mormon community. In the HBO documentary Believer, the alt-rock vocalist took viewers through his personal struggle to reconcile his commitment to LGBTQ equality with the many homophobic views embedded in Mormonism, his faith since childhood.

The Mormon church has been on a slow road to reform. It still asks gay and lesbian Mormons to deny their sexual orientation and enter “mixed-orientation marriages” — or choose celibacy. Its official website uses the phrase “same-sex attraction,” suggesting that sexual orientation is not a fixed status but a feeling, something as malleable or trivial as their favorite brand of shoe. That is a step forward, though. In the past, gay and lesbian members would simply be excommunicated as soon as their sexuality was discovered.


In Utah, religious influence is a fixture that is written into the geography of the capital city.


Reynolds himself is heterosexual and could have quietly sidestepped the issue, but he couldn’t ignore the toll the church’s views took on people. He saw it early on when a childhood friend, who was gay and Mormon, was confined to the closet. As an ally later in life, he met people who shared devastating stories, like that of a Mormon couple who lost their gay son to suicide.

Believer follows Reynolds as he promotes tolerance and acceptance through what he knows best: music. Along with Neon Trees singer Tyler Glenn, a former Mormon who is openly gay, Reynolds organizes the LoveLoud Festival, a benefit and awareness-raising event. The festival was held in Orem, Utah — a city that is 93 percent Mormon — in the hopes of bridging the Mormon and LGBTQ communities. At the festival, the camera turns to the attendees. Viewers see parents embracing their LGBTQ children. They hear testimony from LGBTQ adults, who tell how events like this could have helped them out of the isolation and depression they felt growing up. Continue reading