University of Arizona VOX: Summer Travelogue

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University of Arizona VOX students represent Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona in Washington, D.C.

Earlier this summer, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona sent four University of Arizona students to the annual Youth Organizing and Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., hosted by Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

The conference brings together hundreds of young people from around the country who support the mission of Planned Parenthood and seek to bring awareness around sexual health and reproductive rights to their college campuses. The forum provides an opportunity for young people to learn from each other, share experiences and ideas, and become familiar with the top issues impacting sexual and reproductive health across the country.

Apart from the obvious benefit — getting out of the 100-plus-degree weather here in Arizona — this conference is also a perfect venue to inspire and remind young people about the important role they play in the reproductive health, rights, and justice movement.

We wanted to take a moment to share some of highlights — from our VOX students — about the conference so you, too, can be inspired as we kick off the fall semester.

From Nancy …

Although I have been a youth volunteer with Planned Parenthood for five years now, this was the first time I was able to attend one of these wonderful conferences. The 2013 Youth Organizing and Policy Conference brought together like-minded people and encouraged us to speak out about reproductive justice, equal pay, and health care. Not only was it powerful to listen to advocates from around the country share their stories, but it helped me to understand how just a few voices can change the outlook of elections and large policy decisions.

My favorite part about the conference was being able to walk through the Capitol and speaking with our Congressmen and women about issues we found important. I also thought it was mind-blowing how many young people there were behind the scenes running our governmental offices! It’s encouraging to know that when we reach out to our representatives, we are also reaching out to people of our age who help them in office. Overall I had a great experience in Washington, D.C. I walked away with many new ideas for outreach and also a renewed sense of optimism about our continued fight for our civil liberties.

From Zoe …

My experience at YOPC was truly inspirational. We were able to see and meet so many amazing people. My favorite part of the conference was lobby day, when we were able to meet with five Arizona congressmen and women to discuss issues important to young people and Planned Parenthood. Those who were involved in planning the conference did an incredible job, and I hope that I can attend another conference like this in the future!

From Georgia …

Attending the Youth Organizing and Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., was such an eye-opening and inspiring experience. We were so lucky to be able to meet with five supportive Congressional representatives from Arizona, which really gave me insight into what the lobbying process is like in Congress. While we were pretty exhausted after running around on Capitol Hill all day, the experience itself was extremely energizing and it felt awesome to be able to actively participate in the political process.

The rest of the conference was just as awesome, and incredibly encouraging. In a time when it seems like there is a new anti-choice or anti-woman bill passed every day, it was amazing to see all the great work that is being done to push back across the country. I found it especially heartening to hear from students from states like Texas, North Carolina, and Florida, who are putting up an amazing fight against the choice-limiting legislation that is coming out of their states.

Overall, I came back from the conference motivated and ready to implement what I learned with our VOX chapter next semester.

We all wish the UofA VOX crew best of luck on campus this year and look forward to seeing what they do! To find out about a VOX chapter near you, check out Planned Parenthood’s website.

A Conversation With Faye Wattleton: Part 4, Looking Back

Faye Wattleton was president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America from 1978 to 1992. She was generous enough to speak to me on January 7, 2013, and throughout the month of February we’ve shared her experiences and perspectives in observance of Black History Month. In this final installment, we look at her thoughts about her time at PPFA and her life after leaving Planned Parenthood.

In 1970, just a few years after receiving her master’s degree, Faye Wattleton left the Dayton Health Department and the Visiting Nurses Association to serve as executive director for Planned Parenthood of Miami Valley in Ohio. While she was there, the Roe v. Wade decision was handed down, and when a local reporter asked for a comment, Ms. Wattleton realized that her affiliate had no prepared statement. As she wrote in her autobiography, “The national offices had communicated no strategy for addressing the implications of such a landmark decision.”


“The exercise of safe reproductive health services and choices for women around the world is vital to the planet.”


At the time, no one had known what to expect from the Supreme Court, and the ruling came as a shock to Wattleton and her colleagues. But the Roe v. Wade decision would eventually thrust Planned Parenthood into the highly politicized abortion debate, despite the fact that their mission was — and is — broader than that, focusing most of their energies on contraception, preventive care, and education.

When Ms. Wattleton became Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s president in 1978, the organization had become, according to a 1979 Time Magazine article, “as all-American as the Girl Scouts and debutante parties.” But Ms. Wattleton restructured the national office staff in preparation for increasing political challenges, while continuing to expand medical and education services. During her first year, more than 60 percent of the national managerial staff left the organization.

Reflecting on the restructuring, Ms. Wattleton says that had she known then what she knows now, she would have begun her tenure at PPFA differently. “I had been the executive director of a Planned Parenthood [affiliate] for seven years before I became president [of the national organization]. I felt like I really knew the organization, but what I learned [is that] anyone who has the privilege to ascend to national or international responsibilities can’t quite appreciate what it’s like, until you’re actually in the seat. Perhaps I really overestimated my perspective on some of the nuances of the importance of touching base with a number of the elements within the organization; like any other organization, Planned Parenthood has its factions.” 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