2019: A Year in Blogging

Nearly three years into the Trump administration, a lot of us are tired. The headlines got more and more draining, culminating in impeachment proceedings at the end of the year. But in response, we’re so fired up that we’re ready to storm the polls next November — and make sure our friends and family do so as well. And 2019 was also a time to be hopeful. In January, a record 102 women walked into the House of Representatives, ready to serve their constituents — making up nearly a quarter of House members, the highest proportion in U.S. history. The Senate saw gains as well, with 25 female senators out of a total of 100. Many of these newcomers made it their mission to fight for the very human and civil rights that are currently under attack.

Outside of politics, we’re still committed to connecting people to the information they need via technology, such as Planned Parenthood’s abortion finder tool, or the Roo app, a sexual-health chatbot that was named by TIME Magazine as one of the year’s best inventions.

Throughout the year, our bloggers were here to shed light on the political happenings and spread awareness about important sexual and reproductive health issues. We asked them to pick their favorite posts of 2019. They’re definitely all worth a second look!

Anne covered the fifth anniversary of the Hobby Lobby decision, which marked the Supreme Court’s ruling that some for-profit corporations could, like human beings, exercise religious beliefs. The Hobby Lobby decision placed religion over science, allowing employers to limit employees’ access to birth control methods otherwise guaranteed by the Affordable Care Act — exploiting a legal loophole to give corporations the right to damage their employees’ health in the name of religion. Five years later, its destructive legacy lives on: The Hobby Lobby decision has since been commandeered to deny birth control, attack the LGBTQ community, make a mess of health care administration, and more.

Matt’s favorite post pointed a spotlight on an important but overshadowed piece of history, the case of People v. Belous, which 50 years ago marked the first time a patient’s constitutional right to abortion was upheld in the courts. The post introduces us to Dr. Leon Belous, a Southern California physician who believed abortion bans were antiquated and barbaric — and was arrested for “conspiracy to commit abortion” after referring a patient to a safe abortion provider in the 1960s. The California Supreme Court vindicated Dr. Belous, setting the stage for Roe v. Wade and the expansion of abortion rights a few years later. As Matt tells us, “I think this case is especially relevant to the borderlands area and the complex role that border towns played in abortion access and the social attitudes toward the procedure.”

Ava wrote about the criminalization of miscarriage. That might not sound possible — the idea that someone could be arrested or imprisoned for having a miscarriage — but plenty of people find themselves in this perplexing and outrageous situation. People who lose their pregnancies may be blamed for these losses if others decide they engaged in risky behaviors, despite the medical fact that most of the time, miscarried or stillborn fetuses die of natural causes, and miscarriage within the first 20 weeks of pregnancy is astonishingly common. These laws may also target people of color, as Black, Latinx, and Native-American people are more likely to experience pregnancy loss than non-Hispanic white people. Simply put, criminalizing pregnancy loss casts pregnant people as vessels rather than people.

Tracey shared her own powerful and personal story about miscarriage. She described that string of four simple words — “I had a miscarriage” — as intimately felt and inconceivable to say. For Tracey, talking about the loss of a baby was almost as hard as losing the baby. She now uses her story to fight stigma, and to encourage other people to do the same. When we are silent around the issue, so many of us suffer in silence, while the reality of the prevalence of miscarriage is distorted for the rest of us. And when people don’t realize how common miscarriage is, they are more likely to blame and demonize those who lose their pregnancies.

Anna celebrated one of 2019’s medical victories, which was announced earlier this year. In her favorite blog post, she introduced readers to the “Berlin patient” and the “London patient,” two people who had HIV before coming down with blood cancers. After receiving bone marrow transplants from donors with genetic “immunity” to HIV, an amazing thing happened: Not only did their cancers go into remission — so did their HIV infections. When this feat was first performed more than a decade ago with the Berlin patient, people were hopeful it could be replicated in future cancer patients — but it took until this year for the success to be duplicated in the London patient. What do these cases mean for the millions of other people living with HIV?


Make your voice heard in 2020! Join our blogging team by becoming a Planned Parenthood Arizona volunteer. We want to help amplify your voice!

Who Knew? Hobby Lobby Is a Person

Five years ago this week, on June 30, 2014, for the first time in the history of the United States, the Supreme Court ruled that some for-profit corporations could, like human beings, exercise religious beliefs and exempt themselves from general laws that violate those beliefs. Five justices bestowed upon a handful of business owners the right to deny thousands of their employees the contraception method of their choice otherwise guaranteed under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Guess who performed this legal baptism?

The Hobby Lobby majority quintet: Justices Thomas, Roberts, Alito, Kennedy, and Scalia. Source: Media Matters, June 30, 2014

Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority quintet. His rationale seemed to be:

  • The statute at issue, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA), doesn’t specifically exclude for-profit corporations as protected “persons” who collectively exercise religion and deserve exemption from laws, so the court relies on the legal Dictionary Act, which states: “In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, unless the context indicates otherwise … the words ‘person’ and ‘whoever’ include corporations, companies, associations, firms, partnerships, societies, and joint stock companies, as well as individuals.”
  • Religious exemption requests are taken at face value — without regard for actual scientific evidence. In the Hobby Lobby case, the religious exemption was requested based on the claim that some forms of contraception are infanticide (Plan B, ella, and IUDs). (Such claims are false. Per the Guttmacher Institute, “The weight of the evidence clearly shows that emergency contraceptives and IUDs are not abortifacients.”)
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has not implemented a legally acceptable accommodation for for-profit corporations (our new “persons”). Alito suggested a workaround that the government provide these women contraceptives (with tax dollars) instead. (Subsequent to the decision, an HHS accommodation was reached to allow these closely held, for-profit corporations to use the same opt-out procedure allowed for entities operated by religious groups — e.g., universities, hospitals, and charities).
  • This is a narrow decision that won’t open the floodgates of other religious objections to other laws. (More on this later.)

Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: January Contreras for Arizona Attorney General

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 voters need to be 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!

Although January Contreras has never run for an elected office prior to now, she has spent her career close to politics and devoted to public service. Her experience has included advising Gov. Janet Napolitano on health policy and serving on President Obama’s White House Council on Women and Girls.

Last year, Contreras announced her bid to become the next Arizona attorney general, a position that serves as the chief legal officer of the state of Arizona. The attorney general represents and provides legal advice to the state and defends Arizona’s people and businesses in cases involving financial, civil rights, and felony criminal violations.


“We are our best when we work to protect the well-being and rights of all of us.”


During Napolitano’s tenure as attorney general, Contreras worked in the office as an assistant attorney general, with a focus on prosecuting criminal fraud cases. More recently, Contreras set her sights on leading the office, because she felt the state was at a “very important crossroads.” As she told the Arizona Republic, “for too long, the special interests have treated the office as their personal law firm.” As attorney general, Contreras wants to serve working families and small businesses and, as she told the Washington office of The Guardian, “fight hard” for “people in vulnerable positions.”

Fighting on behalf of those at risk is a cause that has been close to Contreras’ heart. Contreras has served on the board of the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence and was instrumental in establishing the Council on Combating Violence Against Women for Obama’s Department of Homeland Security. More recently, she co-founded a legal aid organization for women and children who are victims of abuse, Arizona Legal Women and Youth Services (ALWAYS). In addition, Contreras has been a lawyer and advocate for youth in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects undocumented immigrants who arrived as children from facing deportation. Continue reading

2014: A Rundown Retrospective

2014 was a pretty not-so-stellar year in reproductive rights, if we’re being honest.

But hold your chin up. All did not suck!

While we’re never sure what new, exciting, or horrible fates await us at the dawn of a new year, rest assured that we’ll be here covering the news that matters most with regard to reproductive and sexual health, politics, gender issues, and reproductive justice well into 2015 and beyond.

Center for Arizona Policy: A Witches’ Brew of Spine-Tingling Politics and Legislation

Photo: Ryan Godfrey

For nearly 20 years, CAP has been injecting their extreme interpretations of Christian doctrine into Arizona law. Photo: Ryan Godfrey

The Center for Arizona Policy is a far-right Christian organization that was founded in 1995. According to its mission statement:

Center for Arizona Policy (CAP) promotes and defends the foundational values of life, marriage and family, and religious liberty.

Its political purpose is stated in the next sentence:

The fact is, what happens at the state Capitol impacts real lives. CAP works with state legislators and other elected officials at all levels of government to ensure that public policy promotes foundational principles.

Its founding president, and its second and current president Cathi Herrod, are both lawyers, and Herrod was a lawyer on staff before becoming president. Therefore it is no surprise that CAP is more than a lobbying group — they actually write legislation, including the vetoed SB 1062, which would have allowed businesses to refuse service to LGBTQ customers under the guise of religious freedom.

They are proud of the legislation they have written or supported over the years. A Huffington Post report from February 2014 says:

Since the group’s 1995 establishment, 123 CAP-supported measures have been signed into law, including the state’s 2008 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. That effort was spearheaded by the group’s president, Cathi Herrod. Twenty-nine bills backed by CAP have been vetoed by various Arizona governors after being passed by the state legislature.

Arizona’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage was just overturned in federal court. Cathi Herrod responded to the the decision with a post on CAP’s Foundations blog.

Today, we grieve. We grieve for the children who now have no chance of growing up with a mom and a dad. We mourn the loss of a culture and its moral foundation. We mourn a culture that continues to turn its back on God and His principles.

But we do not despair. We do not throw in the towel. We do not give up.

She goes on to cite the religious right activism spawned by Roe v. Wade, and predicts a similar movement building up against same-sex marriage.

A rather terrifying thought, given the terrorism and deaths the anti-abortion movement has generated. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Felecia Rotellini for Arizona Attorney General

The Arizona general election will be held on November 4, 2014, and early voting is already underway! 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!

felecia-rotellini scaledFelecia Rotellini is running for Arizona attorney general. The role of Arizona’s attorney general is to serve as chief legal officer on behalf of the state of Arizona. She boasts nearly 30 years of prosecutorial experience, including in her current role as a prosecutor for a private law firm in Phoenix and her previous position as superintendent of the State Banking Department in Arizona under Gov. Janet Napolitano.

Ms. Rotellini’s opponent is Mark Brnovich, who publicly spoke out in favor of businesses instead of people during the case of Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, which eventually allowed businesses to exclude contraception from the health insurance plans they provide their employees on the grounds of religious beliefs. Putting faith before the law, Brnovich has made clear his intention to legally protect every demographic but women when he states, “Whether that be protecting the rights of the unborn, children, seniors, or our veterans, we have a solemn obligation to protect those who cannot protect themselves. My faith and my experience as a prosecutor teaches me that.” Brnovich goes further in implying that he feels no obligation to protect and defend laws that concern women when he specifies: “We also have an obligation to protect and defend our laws that concern the unborn.”

Ms. Rotellini takes a broader approach to inclusiveness as she seeks to uphold the law to protect all Arizonans, including members of the LGBTQ community. As Arizona’s attorney general, she pledges to “support equal protection under the law for one and all, with no exceptions.”

Ms. Rotellini was kind enough to speak with us on October 28, 2014.


“I’m disappointed that my opponent supports a new version of SB 1062 to legalize discrimination against LGBT individuals.”


Tell us a little about your background.

I have lived in Arizona for 28 years; I’ve been a practicing attorney for 28 years. Eleven of those have been in the private sector as a litigation attorney, and 17 of those years as a public lawyer. I worked as a prosecutor in the attorney general’s office for 13 years in both the civil and criminal divisions from 1992 to 2005. And then I ran the Arizona Department of Financial Institutions as superintendent in the cabinet of Gov. Napolitano and also Gov. Brewer. I was in that job from 2006 to 2009. Over 17 years, I was in uninterrupted public service. I had the opportunity to work primarily in financial fraud, consumer fraud, and senior fraud.

I have had some very big cases. Because of my background as a trial lawyer, I did jury trials in my civil practice from 1986 to 1992. I was the lead lawyer for the state against Arthur Andersen, the accounting giant, for the failed audits of the Baptist Foundation of Arizona, where there were 11,000 investors who lost their retirements, and we were able to return $217 million to the victims, mostly working-class and senior citizens. Continue reading

Hobby Lobby: Birth Control and the Law

Birth control activists Margaret Sanger and Fania Mindell inside the Brownsville birth control clinic, circa October 1916

Birth control activists Fania Mindell and Margaret Sanger inside the Brownsville birth control clinic, circa October 1916

In 1964, when I was a 16-year-old college freshman, my Bronx pediatrician asked if I was sexually active, and offered to prescribe birth control whenever I started having sex.

In 1964, his doing so was legal in New York because of a 1918 ruling by Judge Frederick E. Crane of the New York Court of Appeals, but not in Massachusetts, where I was in school.

Birth control is only legal in this country because of a concerted campaign of civil disobedience carried out by Margaret Sanger and her followers. Here is a brief look at the legal history of birth control in the United States.


In 1917, a judge opined that women did not have “the right to copulate with a feeling of security that there will be no resulting conception.”


In 1873, the Comstock Act was passed into law, making the dissemination of “obscene” material through the mail illegal. Any attempts in the early part of the 20th century to teach about sexuality and the prevention of pregnancy — including Margaret Sanger’s work as well as Mary Ware Dennett’s The Sex Side of Life, which she wrote for her sons when she could not find any adequate literature to assist in educating them — were prosecuted under the Comstock Act.

Margaret Sanger witnessed her mother’s early death after 11 live births and seven miscarriages. Later, as a nurse on New York’s Lower East Side, she witnessed poor women dying from attempting to abort unwanted or dangerous pregnancies. She decided to challenge the Comstock Act. Continue reading