Q&A With Our New Director of Public Policy, Jodi Liggett

jodiOn January 6, Jodi Liggett joined Planned Parenthood Arizona’s team as the director of public policy. She will work with communities to advocate for reproductive health and rights, and will collaborate with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona to reach out to voters and legislators to advance a vision of greater access to comprehensive sexuality education, family-planning services, and abortion care. In a state where lawmakers are so hostile to these objectives, Jodi has a lot on her plate!


“The most effective thing we can do is advocate for comprehensive and accurate sexuality education.”


In the following Q&A, Jodi addresses the recent controversy regarding comprehensive sex education in Tempe high schools, and names some of the bad bills that have already been proposed so far in the 2014 legislative session. And, with the gubernatorial elections slated for later in the year, she talks about her hopes for the future — an Arizona government that actually reflects the will of Arizonans, the majority of whom support Planned Parenthood’s mission.


Welcome aboard, and I hope your first month with us has been a positive experience! Please tell us a little about your background and what makes you so passionate about protecting everyone’s access to sexual and reproductive health care.

I am thrilled to join the Planned Parenthood family, and feel like this role is the culmination of many years working on behalf of Arizona’s women and vulnerable populations. When I graduated from law school in the late ’90s, I worked as legislative staff on welfare reform — a huge policy change that affected tens of thousands of poor single mothers struggling to raise their children. Later, I worked in Gov. Jane Hull’s administration as her policy adviser for human services. In both roles, my biggest successes came from finding common ground, avoiding partisan posturing, and working from the middle. Continue reading

Mythbusting: Does Abortion Cause Breast Cancer?

breast-examNew England Journal of Medicine. Journal of the American Medical Association. Annals of Internal MedicineJournal of American Physicians and Surgeons.

One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn’t belong. But how can most laypeople differentiate between these medical journals? The dry, pithy titles seem to tell you exactly what’s underneath their covers. So if I told you that, according to a study in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, abortion increases risk for breast cancer, would you believe me? Well, why not? The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), which publishes the journal, sounds legit.


Health decisions must be guided by reliable evidence, and when agenda-driven policies misinform, patients cannot make informed decisions.


Except that AAPS is infamous for its agenda-driven views, and its journal is used to deny climate change and the dangers of secondhand smoking, promote the debunked idea that vaccines cause autism, advocate for closed borders in overtly racist anti-immigration pieces, reject the causal relationship between HIV and AIDS, and perpetuate a far-right political worldview. The organization opposes any government involvement in health care, including the FDA, Medicare, the Affordable Care Act, and regulation of the medical profession.

Medical journals, like all scientific journals, are where researchers share and critique each other’s work. Before anything is published it undergoes “peer review,” in which experts evaluate studies for quality — good study design, reasonable interpretation of results, etc. The Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, however, has been criticized for placing ideology over the presentation of meticulously gathered scientific evidence, and is not indexed in academic databases like MEDLINE. In 2007, AAPS joined conservative organizations in filing a lawsuit against the FDA, arguing against emergency contraception’s over-the-counter status. So, when the journal publishes articles purporting a link between abortion and breast cancer, we should all be raising our eyebrows in collective skepticism.

You might have heard abortion opponents’ claims that abortion can raise one’s risk for breast cancer later in life. So let’s get something out of the way right now: The very best scientific evidence does not support a link between abortion and breast cancer. Prominent medical organizations, including the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the World Health Organization, have all examined the entirety of the research and found that the largest and most methodologically sound studies fail to reveal a link between abortion and breast cancer. Yet still opponents of abortion include this factoid in misinformation campaigns to instill fear into people making difficult, private decisions, often during periods of vulnerability. Continue reading

The History of the Birth Control Pill, Part 5: Clinical Trials

Gregory Pincus, Min-Chueh Chang, and John Rock, three scientists employed by Margaret Sanger and Katharine McCormick to develop the birth control pill.

Gregory Pincus, Min-Chueh Chang, and John Rock were hired by Margaret Sanger and Katharine McCormick to develop the birth control pill.

Welcome to the fifth installment of our series chronicling the history of the birth control pill. In the previous installment, Margaret Sanger and Katharine McCormick envisioned and bankrolled the development of the birth control pill. Now it had to be tested in large-scale trials.

John Rock, Gregory Pincus, and Min-Chueh Chang had collaborated in the Pill’s development; now it was time to conduct clinical trials. The first study observed 60 women, some of whom were infertility patients while others were nurses. These small trials involved daily temperature readings, vaginal smears, and urine samples, as well as monthly endometrial biopsies. Although the initial results seemed promising, the sample size was small and few of the subjects complied with the protocol.


The approval of the Pill in 1960 marked a turning point in our history.


More test subjects were needed. At this point, historians’ accounts differ. Elaine Tyler May claims that, unable to locate an acceptable pool of volunteers, the researchers tested the Pill on subjects who could not give their consent, such as psychiatric patients. According to Bernard Asbell, however, Rock was scrupulous when it came to informed consent, despite it not being a legal requirement — or even much of a concept at all at this time in history.

Willing participants notwithstanding, conducting such trials in the United States posed a challenge, due to laws against contraception. So the first large-scale clinical trials were conducted in Puerto Rico in 1956. Puerto Rico was densely populated and there was a high demand for alternatives to permanent sterilization, which was widespread on the island due to funding from a wealthy eugenicist named Clarence Gamble, who advocated sterilization for the world’s poor. The clinical trials in Puerto Rico were conducted by Drs. Edris Rice-Wray and Adaline Sattherthwaite; the brand of birth control pill tested was named Enovid. Volunteers were so easy to come by that some clinics had waiting lists. Continue reading

20 Years Since Planned Parenthood v. Casey

The U.S. Supreme Court, presided over by William H. Rehnquist, decided Planned Parenthood v. Casey 20 years ago.

This Friday, June 29, marks the 20th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey.

I first learned about the Supreme Court decision of Planned Parenthood v. Casey about 10 years ago. I was sitting in a constitutional law class in a suburban university. It was my first introduction to abortion access restrictions whose names are now commonplace to me: mandatory counseling sessions, 24-hour waiting periods, parental consent, spousal notification, and reporting requirements.

Basically, the facts of the case look like this. In 1989, Pennsylvania amended its Abortion Control Act to require:

  • the person undergoing the abortion to give informed consent and receive mandatory counseling, including alternatives to abortion.
  • a 24-hour waiting period between the counseling appointment and the procedure itself.
  • parental consent for minors, with available judicial bypass.
  • a spousal notification requirement.
  • reporting requirements for providers.

Geography, relationships, and other life realities are perfectly capable of creating their own “undue burdens.”


The state’s Planned Parenthood association challenged the statute and — fast forwarding a bunch — the case eventually ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court. In a 5-4 decision, the Court held that the standard for whether a state could enact a restriction to abortion access was whether that restriction placed an “undue burden” on the person seeking the abortion. A burden would be considered undue “if its purpose or effect is to place substantial obstacles in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability.”

Of the restrictions enumerated in Pennsylvania’s Abortion Control Act, the Court considered only the spousal notification requirement an undue burden. Continue reading

Women for Goddard Say Goddard Is For Women

Editor’s note: For an in-depth interview with Terry Goddard, 2014 candidate for secretary of state, please click here.

Did you know that women are the majority of voters in the United States? In fact, there were 10 million more women voters than men in the 2008 election. Why is it, then, that women only make up 17 percent of Congress? And why is it that issues such as women’s health continue to be relegated to the back burner?

Arizona is an interesting state, because we actually have a long history of women serving in political office here, in particular in the governor’s seat. Who can forget Rose Mofford and her sassy beehives? The irony, however, is that having a woman in office does not always mean that women are being fairly represented. Jan Brewer is the perfect example. During her time in office, Jan Brewer has systematically set back women’s rights, especially when it comes to women’s access to reproductive health care services.

A group of community organizers called Women for Goddard is hoping to change the political climate. They are mobilizing 5,000 female voters in support of Terry Goddard’s bid for governor, and they are reaching out to voters who are registered, but who haven’t voted in recent elections. Women for Goddard recently held a phone bank in which 500 volunteers each committed to call 10 women. Each of those volunteers will remain in contact with their voters until the election to make sure that the women get to the polls. The goal is to tip the balance of the scales in favor of Terry Goddard. And they are doing it one phone call at a time. Continue reading