A Visit to Jeff Flake’s Office: Fighting for Health Care

Jeff Flake, 2014. Photo: Gage Skidmore

January 24 was a national day of action called by the groups MoveOn, Indivisible, and the Working Families Party. The goal was to visit our senators’ offices around the country with concerns about Donald Trump’s cabinet appointments. In Tucson, there was an action outside Sen. John McCain’s office, but instead of joining that, I decided to go by myself to Sen. Jeff Flake’s office to tell someone on his staff my health care story. I was surprised and delighted to find a group from the SaddleBrooke Democratic Club there before me, standing partly inside and partly outside the office, talking specifically about Trump’s cabinet nominees Jeff Sessions and Betsy DeVos. Someone offered me a letter about DeVos, which I refused, not wanting to dilute my message. I joined the group, and a few others straggled in.


We are stronger when we work together, and there is room for whatever kind of action you are able to take.


Several people spoke to a staff person about education and civil rights. One woman brought up the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and how it has helped her family, hoping that Flake would hear people like her who are afraid of what repeal would mean. Someone asked whether Sen. Flake received letters; he had sent in several with no response. There was also talk about what kinds of communications are most likely to receive the senator’s attention. Hint: It was not mass emails sent in by organizations. Personal communications in person or by phone, or personal letters, are more likely to get attention than emails.

A Latina woman sat down with me to get my information. When I asked what her position was, she said this was her first day as an intern in the office. I wished her well and congratulated her, but told her I wanted to speak with someone on the staff. The intern took my name and address, then referred me to a staff member, the same woman who had met with the group from SaddleBrooke. She was interested and friendly. I said I was there to discuss Medicare and Medicaid specifically because they were the reason I was alive today. More than nine years ago, when I had valley fever and developed lumps on my legs, my doctor sent me for a chest x-ray, which showed a spot on my lung. The radiologist recommended a CT scan for a better look at it. Continue reading

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

phone-operator

Time to call your senators!

Happy 2017, readers! I hope the first days of this new year have brought you happiness, love, joy, and hope.

Not that you needed a reminder, but we are mere days away from having a narcissistic, Twitter-addicted, habitual liar, and numbskull as our president.

  • Everyone knows he’s a prolific teller of untruths, including the Washington Post, who gave “The Donald” ALL THE PINOCCHIOS for his bazillion lies in 2016. Hope they’re ready for another blockbuster year! Actually … #MakeThatFour (WaPo)
  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has hijacked Donald Trump’s campaign slogan and flipped the script to reveal the truth — by repealing the Affordable Care Act, Trump and the GOP want to “Make America Sick Again.” (Politico)
  • Ugghhh. Paul Ryan … what can we even say? He has sucked in the past, he sucks at the present, and he will continue to suck in the future. He spearheaded last night’s repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which will strip Planned Parenthood of all federal funding. And the irony is, the funding he wants to strip from us DOES NOT GO TOWARD ANY ABORTIONS. The Hyde Amendment banned federal monies going toward abortion care in 1976. The money Speaker Ryan wants to rob from us is Medicaid payouts for low-income patients who receive preventive and diagnostic care and low-cost or free condoms and contraceptives. This is heartlessness and cruelty on a savage level. So today, our advocates are hand-delivering 80,000 petitions to Ryan’s office to express just how furious we are! (NY Mag) *Sadly though, we could lose our federal funding as early as next month*
  • Sen. Robert Stivers (R-Kentucky) is championing a 20-week abortion ban in the state because he thinks when women consent to sex, they also consent to pregnancy. Guess a-freaking-gain, pal. (Raw Story)
  • A federal judge in Texas decided that doctors, who take an oath to help people and never cause harm, can deny patients care on the basis of gender identity and history of abortion. (Rewire)
  • Mississippi legislators = a bunch of bigots who want to make hatred of LGBTQ folks an actual religion. (Slate)
  • The National Institutes of Health is entering the first-ever worldwide clinical trial of an HIV vaccine! (NBC News)
  • In 2016, 57 percent of American women of reproductive age lived in a state considered either hostile or extremely hostile to abortion rights. Just think about the magnitude of that statistic. Most of us live in a state that wants to take away our right to a safe, LEGAL medical procedure. (Guttmacher)
  • 106 lawmakers asked Trump to repeal the Hyde Amendment. Brace yourselves: He won’t. (NY Mag)
  • Texas’ craptasic governor, Dan Patrick, wants to pass a “bathroom bill” similar to North Carolina. But this one only targets trans women and girls because, according to his preposterous, archaic logic, men “can defend themselves.” (Texas Tribune)
  • As a matter of fact, six states are now working on this “bathroom bill” nonsense. (Time)
  • Did women break new ground in 2016? Slate delves in with an astute analysis. (Slate)
  • One ground we didn’t break? We still make up the majority of low-wage workers in this country. (NY Mag)
  • Our relentlessly fearless president, Cecile Richards, gave an interview to Rolling Stone promising to continue to fight the hostile political climate that threatens the health and very lives of our patients. (Rolling Stone)

STD Awareness: Sexual Transmission of Zika Virus

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Zika virus. Image: Cynthia Goldsmith, CDC

I first heard of Zika virus in an epidemiology class, when another student made on offhand remark: “Did you know Zika virus can be transmitted sexually?” Ever vigilant for material for the STD Awareness column, I excitedly scribbled the name of the virus in my notes. But upon further investigation, I found that there were only a couple of documented cases of the sexual transmission of this virus that no one had heard of, and decided there was no reason to freak people out about yet another potential STD when rates of more common STDs, like chlamydia and gonorrhea, were on the upswing.

A year later, Zika virus was splashed across headlines on a daily basis, mostly for its newfound association with birth defects, but also in light of revelations that it could be transmitted by sex.


Access to condoms and reliable contraception is more vital than ever.


While Zika virus is usually transmitted by mosquito bites, the discovery that it can be sexually transmitted made it the only known virus that could be spread both sexually and by mosquitoes. It’s also the only known mosquito-borne virus that can cross the placenta to harm a fetus. Like several other viruses, including CMV and rubella, Zika is implicated in serious birth defects. But many health authorities worry that its potential as a sexually transmitted pathogen is dangerously underestimated. As of August 31, there have been 23 confirmed sexually transmitted cases of Zika virus in the United States — but sexual transmission will rise as the virus jumps into local mosquitoes, which will also make it difficult or impossible to tell if a sexually active Zika patient got the virus from sex or directly from a mosquito.

Earlier this year, sexually transmitted Zika virus in Texas made headlines, with many journalists incorrectly proclaiming it the first known case of sexual transmission. In fact, Zika’s sexual transmission was first documented in 2008, before “Zika” was a household name and the married couple who published their experience in a scientific paper thought they could share their STD status in relative obscurity. Despite referring to themselves as “Patient 1” and “Patient 3,” a science reporter quickly figured it out and (with their permission) revealed their identities in a 2011 article — still years before Zika-bearing mosquitoes would hit the Americas and trigger a microcephaly epidemic that propelled the virus to infamy. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Dr. Richard Carmona for U.S. Senator

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 Action Fund 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!

When announcing Dr. Richard Carmona’s endorsement by Planned Parenthood Action Fund, President Cecile Richards said that “Arizona women need a champion who has long fought to protect and promote women’s health representing them in Washington” — and as a former U.S. surgeon general, Carmona is uniquely positioned to advocate for scientifically driven, rather than agenda-driven, policies on health and medicine.


“Health care should not be politicized.”


Carmona already has experience fighting for evidence-based health policy in an increasingly polarized political climate. After leaving his position as surgeon general, Carmona testified before Congress that the George W. Bush administration continually hampered his attempts to present scientifically sound public health policy when it conflicted with their political agenda. As Carmona said in his testimony, the Bush administration silenced him on many issues, including emergency contraception and comprehensive sex education — and the public was denied access to the latest unbiased evidence on important public health issues.

Carmona is running against Republican challenger Jeff Flake to succeed Jon Kyl as U.S. senator from Arizona. Flake’s congressional voting record is problematic, and includes support for an amendment to the Affordable Care Act to prohibit abortion coverage, support for defunding Planned Parenthood, and a vote against expanding the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

As a U.S. senator, Carmona can bring his lifetime of experience as a physician and public-health expert to the legislature. When it comes to our medical care, no matter our political affiliations, we all need access to the best scientific evidence, and we need someone who will be a champion for our health in the U.S. Senate.

Dr. Carmona generously took time for an interview with us via telephone on October 3, 2012.


Many of us, including myself, are becoming increasingly concerned about the hostility toward science exhibited by some of our current lawmakers. What can you do to inject reason and scientific evidence into an increasingly politicized discourse about public health?

Well, first and foremost, if you remember my tenure as surgeon general, I had to do that. There was a lot of ideological, nonscientific-driven sentiment, and when necessary I stood up and I addressed the issues appropriately. It wasn’t a perfect world, especially when you have many of those ideologues thinking differently, but nevertheless, I will do the same thing as a senator.

And I think I enter the Senate with, if you will, the imprimatur of being a surgeon general and a trauma surgeon and a registered nurse and a paramedic. I bring all those years of cumulative science to the table as I discuss things with my colleagues. And although they may be ideologically driven, and I will certainly acknowledge their personal beliefs, that’s not science and it’s not fact. Continue reading