Meet Our Candidates: Kristin Dybvig-Pawelko for State Representative, LD 15

Your power at the polls can be a force for change! The Arizona primary election will be held on August 4, 2020 — and early voting has already started. Reproductive health has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but you can join Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona to back our endorsed candidates —  and put our health and rights first. We’re highlighting their campaigns in our “Meet Our Candidates” interviews, to inform and empower your vote in 2020!

Kristin Dybvig-Pawelko is running to represent Legislative District 15, which covers parts of north Scottsdale and Paradise Valley, in the Arizona House of Representatives. Dr. Dybvig-Pawelko has dedicated herself to education, teaching in the Communication Studies Department at Arizona State University for the past 20 years. She is running for office because she has seen how state funding for higher education has drastically decreased despite the state constitution’s mandate for university tuition to be “as nearly free as possible.”


“Our future is bright because young people across the state are activated in ways that I have never seen before.”


Dr. Dybvig-Pawelko is incensed that the same thing is happening in our K-12 public schools. During the #RedForEd walkouts, she watched teachers raising their voices in unison, letting the state Legislature know how much their inaction was costing our children. The solutions proposed have been Band-Aids on an open wound. She believes our schools should be fully funded, safe places for all children to learn. Teachers should be paid a professional wage and treated with decency and respect. She is running help Arizona get closer to that reality.

I spoke to Dr. Dybvig-Pawelko on July 20, 2020, via email about her campaign and what she hopes to accomplish in the Legislature.

Please tell us a little about your background and why you’re running for office in this political climate.

I grew up in Southern Arizona and never thought I would run for public office. I was fortunate enough to find academic debate as a high school student and ended up at ASU to be a part of the debate team. From there, I was able to earn graduate assistantships to attend both Cornell University and Arizona State to pursue my M.S. and doctorate in communication. Once I graduated, I was offered a full-time position at ASU and my husband and I jumped at the chance to stay in Arizona.

In 2018, I watched as students, parents, and teachers descended on the Capitol and asked for more resources for our public schools. It was at that moment that I realized we will never change the narrative until we change the decision-makers. I originally looked to see who was running in my legislative district, but when I found a blank space on the ballot, I jumped in to get signatures to place my own name on the ballot. Three weeks later, I turned in those signatures and found myself running for public office. Continue reading

The Past Isn’t Always in the Past: Covington Catholic and the Politics of Race and Gender at Southern Private Schools

Nathan Phillips (center) leads a dance at the Indigenous Peoples March. Image (detail): Joe Flood

It was hard to miss the video that went viral on the weekend of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

On January 20, footage of a white high school student, flanked by his classmates as he stood in front of a Native American elder, took the news and social media by storm. The student stood at a close distance, wearing an apparent smirk below his “Make America Great Again” hat. The Native elder stood calmly but firmly, beating a small hand drum and singing over the noise from the student’s classmates, many of whom also sported the iconic red baseball caps of Trump supporters. One classmate appeared to taunt the Native elder with a gesture mocking a “tomahawk chop.”


The March for Life incident is a troubling reminder of a history that links segregated private schools to the anti-abortion movement.


The scene was from Washington, D.C., where students from Covington Catholic High School in Park Hills, Kentucky, were attending the anti-abortion March for Life. It was an event that coincided with an Indigenous Peoples March, a grassroots gathering of community leaders, celebrities, and activists to address the environmental and human rights issues facing Native American, First Nations, and other indigenous people.

The incident drew conflicting narratives as more footage was pieced together to show how Nick Sandmann, the Covington student, came face-to-face with Nathan Phillips, an Omaha elder, veteran, and activist. What gained general agreement was that tensions had first been elevated by verbal exchanges with another, smaller group identifying themselves as the Black Hebrew Israelites. A few members of that group could be seen subjecting the Covington students to inflammatory language and insults. Thereafter, people have been divided, often along partisan lines, on whether Sandmann or Phillips was the instigator of the face-off. Continue reading

Book Club: Shout Your Abortion

Shout Your Abortion hit the book shelves in time for us to celebrate the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade on January 22, 2019. That Supreme Court decision (finally) recognized that abortion is a normal part of a woman’s reproductive life and a right guaranteed by the Constitution. The book, edited by Amelia Bonow and Emily Nokes, presents the real-life abortion “shouts” of 44 women and how they think about what is typically a routine medical procedure.

Shout Your Abortion, edited by Amelia Bonow and Emily Nokes

In 1973, when Roe was decided, eight years had already passed since my (illegal) abortion, and I was raising two daughters. I was relieved to know that women, including my two kiddos, would never again need to risk their lives to get reproductive health care they might need.

I didn’t think we would ever go back to unsafe abortions or forced motherhood. It never occurred to me (and many other women) that staying quiet and just getting on with life would leave an open mic for anti-abortion zealots to chip away at our protection. Alas, we were wrong.

Planned Parenthood Action Fund article

Fast forward 46 years. “Stop! We’re not having it! Listen to us! We’ve had abortions!” Minority anti-abortion voices are no longer drowning out the majority of the American people (72 percent) who do not want to see Roe overturned and are taking action to prevent it, including our book’s “shouters.”

The genesis of the book was Amelia Bonow’s Facebook post about her abortion, passed along by Lindy West as #ShoutYourAbortion, prompting a deluge of “shouters.” Continue reading

Jesse Helms Is Dead: His Amendment Lives On

Here we are again, another dreaded anniversary — the Helms Amendment.

If you are a contemporary of that legislation’s author, Sen. Jesse Helms, you might also remember the title character from Sinclair Lewis’ powerful 1927 novel Elmer Gantry or the Academy Award-winning portrayal of Gantry by Burt Lancaster in the 1960 film. Rev. Gantry was a evangelical preacher who used religion to destroy the lives of women. So did Sen. Helms.

2016 video frame: Global Justice Law Center

A year ago my fellow Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona blogger Rachel Port reminded us that on December 17, 1973, Congress passed the Helms Amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act — today marks its 45th anniversary. In a nutshell, this legislation prohibits using U.S. foreign assistance funds to “pay for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions.”

Other journalists and bloggers have joined Rachel in documenting the severe impacts of this legislation and its companion “Mexico City policy,” aka the “global gag rule,” denying women abortion care, particularly in poor and war-torn corners of the globe. (For a taste of its horror, remember the example of the women and girls forced to bear the children of their Boko Haram rapists.) Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Felicia French for State Representative, LD 6

The time to fight back — and fight forward — for reproductive justice is fast approaching. The stakes are high in this year’s state election, with candidates for governor, secretary of state, attorney general, and other races on the ballot. The Arizona general election will be held November 6, 2018 — and early voting began on October 10. Voters needed to have been registered by October 9 to cast their ballots. Reproductive health has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who put our health and our rights first. Get to know them now in our series of “Meet Our Candidates” interviews, and make your voice heard in 2018!

Felicia French is easily the most overqualified newcomer to seek public office in Arizona this election cycle. Ms. French is a nurse, veteran, and parent, and is running for one of the two state House seats in the 6th legislative district. This sprawling district in northern Arizona spans the political spectrum from bright blue to deep red, 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 includes rural communities like Payson and mountain towns like Flagstaff.


“During an uncertain time at the federal level, state legislators have an important role to play in protecting human rights.”


Currently represented by politicians who consistently vote to gut public education, limit health care access, and exploit the environment, LD 6 is desperate for some small-d democratic representation. Unfortunately, those who oppose Planned Parenthood and the care we provide have been actively targeting Arizona values of liberty and equality for quite some time.

Luckily, Felicia French has had a strong campaign to ensure all those in the 6th legislative district have access to health care, quality education, and clean air and water. Ms. French generously took the time to tell us more about her background and her candidacy on October 3.

Please tell us a little about your background and why you’re running for office right now in this political climate.

I am a retired colonel who served in the U.S. Army and Arizona National Guard as a nurse, MedEvac helicopter pilot, Arizona state equal employment officer, and senior medical advisor in Afghanistan. I’m also a mother, an educator, a sustainability scientist, an activist with Sierra Club, and a volunteer with my local search and rescue, Civil Air Patrol, and Community Emergency Response Team. I’m running for office because I couldn’t stand to see the divisiveness in our country, my state, and my local community. After serving in the military for 32 years and watching my soldiers wounded and killed to defend our nation, I felt strongly that this is not what I served for, and that I needed to do something. Continue reading

On the Importance of Localized Electoral Work in Reproductive Rights

The following guest post was written by Mellie MacEachern, the SHARE (Sexual Health and Responsibility Education) organizer with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona. She has been with the organization for 11 months.

For many Arizonans, the local political landscape seems foreign or abstract, distant from their individual lives. It’s almost as though we’ve been intentionally persuaded to ignore what’s happening next door while we rile in anguish about what’s happening in Washington.

Year after year, Arizonans who care about reproductive choice hear about bills being introduced that specifically target reproductive health care in minute but aggressive ways. But it’s not easy to muster a fervent view about reporting procedures in health clinics that you may not even visit if you’re hearing about them after they’ve been voted on, or if you don’t know your representative in the state Legislature and you’re unsure how you, as an individual, can hold them accountable.


In 2014, anti-choice candidates in Arizona won by around 170,000 votes. Meanwhile, 193,000 likely pro-choice voters didn’t show up at the polls.


The interim between election years is also disheartening for those who are interested in engaging in the local political climate but don’t know how to go about holding their national elected officials accountable for their votes on the national stage. How many times can someone call their senator before they burn out, before they lose hope?

Since 2016, we’ve seen an unprecedented interest in support for reproductive choice and access to care. An overwhelming number of people want to engage, help, show up, and make sure their voices are heard. But for the individual voter, constituent, or citizen, it can seem as though that hard work may not lead to an opportunity to be seen and heard by the people you work to elect.

That’s where Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona (PPAA) comes into play. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Hazel Chandler for State Representative, LD 20

The time to fight back — and fight forward — for reproductive justice is fast approaching. The stakes are high in this year’s state election, with candidates for governor, secretary of state, attorney general, and other races on the ballot. The Arizona primary election will be held August 28, 2018, and early voting began on August 2. Voters need to have been registered by July 30 to cast their ballots. Reproductive health has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who put our health and our rights first. Get to know them now in our series of “Meet Our Candidates” interviews, and make your voice heard in 2018!

A wealth of experience has brought Hazel Chandler to her current bid for the Arizona Legislature. A 40-year resident of Arizona, she is a longtime advocate for public education and social justice whose career spans decades in the government, nonprofit, and private sectors.

For Ms. Chandler, though, the focus is not on what’s behind her but on what’s ahead. Ms. Chandler holds degrees in early childhood development and management, and with those in her toolbox, she has spent much of her career working for the next generations of Arizonans. For eight years she served as the regional director of First Things First, an agency in Phoenix that promotes early childhood education and other measures to ensure the success and wellbeing of Arizona’s children. Along with school funding, Ms. Chandler has been an outspoken supporter of funding KidsCare and other programs to ensure that children’s health care needs are being met, regardless of household income. As she told the Arizona-based Children’s Action Alliance, “Providing children with health care needs to be a priority for our state.”


“It is our moral responsibility to make sure that everyone has access to affordable, quality health care, including reproductive care for women.”


Ms. Chandler’s focus on the future also means a commitment to a clean environment. As she states on her campaign website, environmental protection “isn’t just an issue, it is the entire context in which we have to make all our public policy decisions.” For her, creating a sustainable future is about conserving resources to meet long-term economic needs — as well as protecting people from the health effects of pollution and climate change.

In fact, much of Ms. Chandler’s platform — from her views on preventing crime to getting big money out of politics — circles back in some way to public health. Within that comprehensive view of health, she is also committed to reproductive justice. That conviction has helped garner the endorsements of Arizona List, the Arizona NOW Political Action Committee, and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona. Continue reading