Bearing the Burden of Injustice: Black Maternal Mortality

Mother and babyWhen it comes to maternal mortality, American women don’t all live in the same country. While white women live in Qatar, black women live in Mongolia.

Maternal mortality is death related to complications from pregnancy or childbirth. Most of us don’t come from a time or place where the prospect of dying in childbirth is a tangible possibility — in the past century, as medicine has advanced, maternal mortality rates have plummeted.


To raise healthy families, we need access to general and reproductive health care, including preventive care, prenatal care, and maternity care.


The United States, though, hasn’t come as far as would be expected. Although its wealth should have put it on par with other developed nations like Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, and those in Scandinavia, women in these countries fare far better than those in the United States. So do women in Libya, Bosnia and Herzogovina, Bulgaria, and Kazakhstan, indicating that national priorities — and not necessarily national wealth — are key to ensuring maternal health.

The United States’ high maternal mortality rate is heartbreaking no matter how you look at it, but is even worse for women of color. African-American women are 3.5 times more likely to die as a result of pregnancy or childbirth than white women. Between 2011 and 2013, the maternal mortality rate for white women was 12.7 deaths per 100,000 live births. Comparing that to 2015 data from the World Health Organization (WHO), that rate puts white women’s maternal mortality on par with mothers in Qatar and Bahrain, two wealthy Persian Gulf nations. African-American women, however, suffered 43.5 deaths per 100,000 live births, putting their maternal mortality on par with those of Turkmenistan, Brazil, and Mongolia. Continue reading

STD Awareness: The HIV Epidemic at Home

In the United States, we understand HIV — the virus that causes AIDS — using a common narrative, one that gives us the impression that its deadliest chapters belong in decades past or distant places. It goes like this:

The disease emerged in the 1980s, cutting down young gay men in their primes and blindsiding scientists as they scrambled to unravel the virus’ mysteries. While AIDS initially whipped up mass hysteria among the general public, LGBTQ folks demanded equality, pushing to find treatments and a cure. AIDS activism and scientific research eventually led to the development of antiretroviral drugs, which tamed the plague by turning a death sentence into a chronic disease. Now, with the right medication, people with HIV can live long, healthy lives. The hysteria has died down, as most people realize viral transmission is preventable, and the infection is manageable.

One thing hasn’t changed, however: Just as it was in the 1980s, AIDS is still thought of as a disease of the “other.” Back then, it was a disease of gay men, a population cruelly marginalized by the general public. Today, it’s thought of as a disease of sub-Saharan Africa, where HIV prevalence is highest.

That narrative, however, doesn’t tell the whole story. Right here in our own backyards, the HIV epidemic continues to spread in the face of chilling indifference from those not affected. African-American MSM — men who have sex with men, who may or may not self-identify as gay or bisexual — have an HIV prevalence that exceeds that of any country in the world. In Swaziland, for example, 27 percent of adults are living with HIV/AIDS, but if current transmission rates hold steady, half of African-American MSM are projected to be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime. Instead of taking this projection as a wake-up call to invest in lifesaving health policies, however, state and federal responses are poised to let it become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Contrary to racist and homophobic stereotypes, data show that black MSM aren’t more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior, use drugs and alcohol, or withhold their HIV status from partners. So why are they burdened with higher HIV rates? The answer lies beyond mere behavior, embedded in policies and practices that disproportionately harm people based on race, sexuality, and geography. Continue reading

The American Health Care Act, Act 2

It’s time to raise your voice.

When the House of Representatives failed to pass the American Health Care Act in March, we thought they would move on to other things. They had already faced the wrath of their constituents in town halls across the country, defending themselves against charges that they were taking people’s health care away.

But a promise is a promise, and the Republicans had promised their voters they would get rid of Obamacare. So they began to negotiate — only instead of negotiating with the moderates in their party and perhaps some Democrats, they chose to work with the tea party faction, who now call themselves, without irony, the Freedom Caucus — which had disparaged the original AHCA as “Obamacare-lite.” If the angry constituents packing town halls to capacity thought the first iteration of the AHCA was too extreme, what on earth made House Republicans think a Freedom Caucus makeover would produce a bill that would inspire less animosity than the first?


We must insist that our representatives remember that health care is a matter of life and death.


So Tom MacArthur, a supposedly moderate Republican who makes Ronald Reagan look liberal, and Mark Meadows, the Freedom Caucus leader who makes Reagan look like a full-blown socialist, hammered out a deal. The tea party objection to the AHCA was that it didn’t get rid of the ACA’s regulations on insurance companies — such as barring insurers from charging more money to women, older patients, or patients with preexisting conditions, or requiring them to cover essential services like preventive health care without cost to patients, emergency services, prescription drugs, and prenatal care. MacArthur and Meadows’ supposed compromise allows states to apply for waivers to opt out of these essential services, or to allow higher rates for those with preexisting conditions if they set up “high-risk pools.” MacArthur’s constituents were not pleased. Continue reading

What’s in a Name: Repealing the Affordable Care Act

Supporters drop off petitions and rally at Rep. Martha McSally’s Tucson office, March 15, 2017

As this post goes to press, word has come that Speaker Paul Ryan has pulled the American Health Care Act, being unable to muster enough votes to pass it. So we have escaped that disaster, and it appears no attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act will proceed in the near future. But the fight is not over. Aspects of this bill will come up in other forms and we will have to be vigilant. But this is a victory for activism, so many thanks to all of you who made phone calls, demonstrated, told your stories, and reminded the Republicans that destroying something is not the same as governing.

So as you read this, realize what we have escaped, and what we need to watch out for as we proceed.


People were going to die. But the free market would have triumphed.


Republicans called it Obamacare, and used that name as a slur to run against President Obama in 2012. It didn’t win that race for them, but there are enough people in this country for whom the name Obama is enough to damn a program. One woman, whose son lost his job and had his monthly insurance premium fall from $567 to $88, attributes that decrease to the tax credits in Trump and Ryan’s new American Health Care Act. You know, the bill that never passed. In actuality, her son became eligible for a subsidy under Obamacare — the Affordable Care Act — which is still the law.

Paul Ryan and his cronies in the House of Representatives hated the Affordable Care Act before it was written. They hated it even more when it passed and more than that when it was implemented.

What did they hate about it? Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Alex Martinez for State Representative, LD 6

The Arizona primary election will be held on August 30, 2016. 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.” In order to vote in the primary election, you need to have been registered to vote by August 1. Missed the deadline? You can still register online for November’s general election. Make your voice heard in 2016!

Alex Martinez croppedThe sprawling 6th Legislative District covers a large swath of rural Arizona, from the Grand Canyon in the north to the Tonto National Forest in the south, and from Jerome in the west to Holbrook in the east. It is a beautiful section of the state, and given that it is a rural district, its constituents have different needs compared to their urban counterparts in metro Phoenix and Tucson. Alex Martinez, our endorsed candidate for the Arizona House of Representatives in LD 6, seeks to help meet those needs.


“We have a vested interest in women’s health care issues and providing family planning services.”


Alex Martinez, a fifth-generation southwest native, was born, raised, and educated in Arizona, where he earned a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, and an Ed.D. at the University of Arizona. Additionally, he is a Navy veteran, having served six years in the enlisted ranks and 30 years as an officer.

Martinez has been a public school teacher, principal, and superintendent, and his experiences in Arizona’s public schools give credence to his belief in the importance of sex education as a resource students need to ensure they have all the information needed to make healthy decisions. In an interview on July 25, 2016, Martinez told us he would like to “introduce legislation that provides funds to districts that provide sexuality education,” as well as to “provide funds to develop a statewide program so that there is uniformity with instruction.” Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Steve Farley for State Senator, LD 9

The Arizona primary election will be held on August 30, 2016. 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.” In order to vote in the primary election, you need to have been registered to vote by August 1. Missed the deadline? You can still register online for November’s general election. Make your voice heard in 2016!

farleypicSen. Steve Farley, who faces no opposition in either the primary or the November election, told us that he’s been spending much of his time “working to try to get a pro-choice majority elected in the Legislature,” no surprise for the pro-choice stalwart and father of two daughters whom Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed multiple times.

The 53-year-old artist and businessman has represented Legislative District 9 since 2012. Initially elected to the Arizona Legislature as State Representative from District 28 in 2006, Farley went on to become House Assistant Minority Leader. In the Senate, Farley serves as Assistant Minority Leader, and is the ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee. He also serves on the Appropriations, Financial Institutions, and Ethics Committees.


“All students are our future, no matter who they are or love.”


Recognizing Farley’s rising profile in the Legislature, the Arizona Republic named him one of 16 Arizonans to Watch in 2016. In a recent conversation, he noted with some surprise that readers and reporters of the Arizona Capitol Times voted him Best Arizona Democratic Elected Official in 2016.

“I didn’t expect it,” he told us, clearly pleased.

Sen. Farley has run a public art and graphic design business since 1991. He created the photographic tile murals around Tucson’s Broadway Underpass after he invented a process for converting photographs to glazed ceramic tile.

Sen. Farley was kind enough to take the time for a telephone interview on July 11, 2016.

What kind of beneficial legislation would you like to see introduced, and why do you think it’s important to fight for it?

The most important legislation that needs to be introduced would get rid of the bad legislation that’s been passed for eight years. They’ve been full speed ahead to attack women’s health. We need to restore the relationship between a doctor and that doctor’s patient. Don’t try to write scripts for them to read, or institute an abusive waiting period and make it as hard as possible for women in rural areas to access health care. Ensure that women have access to the full range of legal health services. Continue reading