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

Tom Price, Secretary Against Health and Human Services?

Protesters at Sen. McCain's Tucson office, December 20, 2016.

Protesters at Sen. McCain’s Tucson office, December 20, 2016.

On December 20, I took part in a demonstration opposing changes to Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act (ACA). We gathered outside Sen. John McCain’s Tucson office and told our health care stories. Almost all of us were women, but our stories included issues like the cost of diabetic testing supplies and insulin, the difficulties with employer-provided health plans that don’t allow specialized testing and care outside of their network, the prohibitive cost of medication for chronic conditions like AIDS, and my story of a CT scan (which I could only afford with government assistance) for something unrelated that found my kidney cancer. We were unable to meet with anyone from the office, but the written stories were given to staff and a later meeting was set up.


Tom Price is among those who could do the most harm to the greatest number of Americans.


I begin with this story because Tom Price, Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of health and human services, doesn’t think the government has any place in our health care system. He fits very well among Mr. Trump’s choices to head government departments and agencies, a group of people who don’t believe in the work of their respective departments: Jeff Sessions for attorney general, who was denied a federal judgeship because of his racist comments and judicial overreach as Alabama’s attorney general; Scott Pruitt, who has sued the Environmental Protection Agency 13 times because he opposes regulations and doesn’t believe in climate science, to head that agency; Betsy DeVos for secretary of education, who has no background in education and has spent millions of dollars lobbying to get money away from public schools; and Rex Tillerson, who worked all his life for Exxon, which had a large deal with Russia put on hold by sanctions imposed after Russia annexed Crimea, as secretary of state, with the ability to lift those sanctions. And that’s just a sample.

Since 2009, Price, an orthopedic surgeon, has been a member of the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), a group whose members sign a “declaration of independence” renouncing payments from third-party payers, whether government or private insurers. Their journal has published articles opposing taxes on cigarettes, linking abortion and breast cancer, doubting whether HIV causes AIDS, and opposing mandatory vaccinations. They oppose regulating medical practice even as far as hospital peer reviews, and are fiercely for free-market medicine. 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)

McCain Can’t Airbrush His Anti-Women Record

“Decades of attacks on women’s health can’t be erased by a last-minute ploy”

Phoenix, AZ – After suffering mounting criticism from women across Arizona for his sustained support for Donald Trump — who was caught on camera condoning sexual assault — John McCain is attempting to minimize his abhorrent record on women’s health. McCain is facing a tight reelection against Ann Kirkpatrick. Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona today issued a harsh rebuke of McCain’s recent political pander: a newly formed group “Women for McCain.”

McCain’s record includes having voted against at least 55 pieces of women’s health legislation, despite health care access in Arizona being among the worst in the country.

Quote from Bryan Howard, President, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona

“John McCain can’t airbrush his year-long support of Donald Trump and the Presidential candidate’s disgusting behavior towards women. Nor can McCain airbrush his own record of voting repeatedly against women’s health and safety. John McCain has voted to defund Planned Parenthood at least eight times, pushed extreme bills that use religion as a reason to allow employers to deny women health care coverage, and voted over and over again to make it harder for women to obtain safe, legal abortions.

“Women can’t afford Trump’s abhorrent behavior towards women nor a Senator who let Trump’s behavior slide for over a year. This year at the ballot box women will hold John McCain accountable for working against Arizona’s women.”
Continue reading

STD Awareness: Sexual Transmission of Zika Virus

Zika

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

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • scientist face maskThe GOP debates were last night. Just an FYI: Every single one of those dingbats has deplorable, antiquated views on women’s reproductive rights and health. (Bustle)
  • The foolery surrounding unfounded allegations that Planned Parenthood has been illegally selling fetal tissue has reached ASININE LOWS, people. (NYT)
  • And it’s helped three state governments reach their ultimate goal of defunding us and further chipping away at women’s reproductive rights. Alabama is the latest. (CNN)
  • Speaking of Ass Backward Alabama, these clowns tried to snatch the parental rights of a pregnant prison inmate to stop her from getting an abortion! What in the hell! (Guardian)
  • With regard to fetal tissue, several organizations agreed to speak with The New York Times about their involvement in obtaining fetal tissue for the purpose of medical research on numerous degenerative diseases, such as leukemia, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Parkinson’s disease, and others. (NYT)
  • Scientific and medical research is already beginning to suffer as a result of this fetal tissue non-scandal. Colorado State University officials have suspended the school from acquiring fetal tissue from entities linked to Planned Parenthood until “Congressional investigations are concluded.” (RH Reality Check)
  • Thank you, Salon, for covering the facts of this debacle in a reasonable manner. And exposing the fact that Planned Parenthood has prevented possibly 3 million abortions in 2013 and 2014 by providing affordable or free birth control to those in need. (Salon)
  • Ebony has a magnificent piece on what you absolutely must know about Planned Parenthood and black women. (Ebony)
  • Warren Buffett has funded a birth control revolution on the down low?!? #WhoKnew (Bloomberg)
  • The Economist has quite the chilling piece on how “exceptionally deadly” childbirth is in the United States. Gee, almost seems like women should have a choice about whether or not they want to risk their lives giving birth to a child rather than having it forced upon them, right? (The Economist)
  • The birth control pill has prevented how many instances of cancer in the last decade?! (Time)
  • In case it slipped your mind, our senator, John McCain, is still The Worst. (Phoenix New Times)

10 Things Every Woman Should Know About John McCain

John McCain has been Arizona’s senator for 25 years. Here’s what John McCain has said and done over the course of his time in the senate in regards to women’s health.

1. John McCain opposes equal pay legislation, saying it wouldn’t do “anything to help the rights of women.”

2. John McCain opposes legislation requiring health care plans to cover prescription birth control.

3. John McCain opposes comprehensive, medically accurate sex education.

4. John McCain opposes common sense funding to prevent unintended and teen pregnancies.

5. John McCain opposes funding for public education about emergency contraception. Continue reading