Illegal Procedure: How a 1974 Stadium Bill Put Reproductive Rights in the Sidelines

StadiumFans of the University of Arizona football team will arrive by the thousands at Arizona Stadium on September 3, the start of the fall football season, as the UA Wildcats face off against the UTSA Roadrunners, a team they defeated 26 to 23 in San Antonio last September. For fans, the stadium is a place where legends and losses are remembered. For reproductive rights advocates, it represents a devil’s bargain that took place more than 40 years ago and continues to compromise health care to this day.


In 1974, abortion rights were sacrificed to expand Arizona Stadium.


Arizona has long had a unique role in the abortion battle. In 1962, Sherri Finkbine, a Phoenix-area woman, entered the national spotlight after she found out the thalidomide she was taking as a sleep aid could cause severe fetal abnormalities. The early mortality rate among infants who were exposed to the drug was about 40 percent, in large part due to internal defects that commonly affected the kidneys, heart, digestive tract, and reproductive system.

Fearing how thalidomide would affect the development of her own fetus, Finkbine wanted to terminate her pregnancy in a state — and nation — that put legal barriers in the way of abortion. Already known to many as the star of a locally produced children’s show, she became a topic of national debate when she shared her story with a reporter from the Arizona Republic. She spoke to the reporter in the hopes of warning other mothers about thalidomide. An unintended consequence was that the publicity made it harder to quietly seek an abortion; providers who might have otherwise taken a legal risk for her couldn’t escape the attention that followed her. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Amy Schwabenlender for State Representative, LD 20

The Arizona general election will be held on November 4, 2014. 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 general election, you must register to vote by October 6 — and can even register online. Make your voice heard in 2014!

Amy for AZAmy Schwabenlender is running to represent the 20th legislative district in the Arizona House of Representatives. LD 20 encompasses much of Northwest Phoenix, and includes parts of Glendale and Moon Valley. Ms. Schwabenlender stands strong for reproductive health, justice, and, as a longtime supporter of Planned Parenthood, the work we do to stand up for women’s rights.

LD 20 is currently represented in the state House by Paul Boyer, who identifies as “strongly pro-life.” Paul Boyer recently voted for SB 1062, the infamous discrimination bill that received national attention last spring. Anthony Kern, a Republican, is vying for the second seat. Kern has indicated on his Center for Arizona Policy questionnaire that he is opposed to comprehensive sex education and in favor of retaining Arizona’s constitutional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman.

Because so much is at stake for this House seat, and because Amy Schwabenlender is such a passionate advocate for reproductive rights, we are proud to endorse her campaign. Ms. Schwabenlender was kind enough to talk to Morganne Rosenhaus on September 14, 2014.


“Government and legislators should not be involved in personal health care decisions.”


Tell us a little about your background.

I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin, went to college in San Antonio, and have lived in Arizona for 19 years. I worked in sales and marketing for 10 years, and then transitioned to the nonprofit sector, which is where I have been for the past nine years. I currently work at United Way as vice president of community impact, where my job is to end homelessness and hunger in Maricopa County.

Earlier this year, the state legislature passed HB 2284, which permits the health department to inspect abortion clinics without a warrant. What do you think about this new law? In contrast to bills like HB 2284, what kind of beneficial legislation would you like to see introduced, and why do you think it is important to fight for it?

These kinds of bills are insulting to women and their families. It feels like women are being picked on just for being women. The rights that women have when they receive their health care shouldn’t be different from men. No one should have their privacy threatened. Continue reading

When Metaphor Becomes Reality: The Abortion Battle and the Necessity of the FACE Act

PP entrance

Clinic escorts at a Washington, D.C. Planned Parenthood. Photo: Bruno Sanchez-Andrade Nuño via Flickr

Serving as the medical director of a reproductive health clinic made Dr. George Tiller a lightning rod for constant vitriol — and more than once a target of violence. Picketers routinely gathered outside his clinic in Wichita, Kansas, a site of their protests because it provided abortions, including late-term abortions. In 1986, Tiller saw the clinic firebombed. Seven years later, in 1993, he suffered bullet wounds to his arms when an anti-abortion extremist fired on him outside the property. Finally, in 2009, he was fatally shot while attending worship services at a Wichita church.


Anti-abortion extremists can create life-threatening scenarios for those who seek reproductive health care.


In the wake of Dr. Tiller’s death, many reproductive rights advocates argued that his assassination could have been avoided. The shooting was not the first time his murderer, 51-year-old Scott Roeder, broke the law.

Roeder could have been stopped prior to the shooting under a federal law, the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, which was enacted in 1994 — 19 years ago this Sunday — to protect the exercise of reproductive health choices. The FACE Act makes it a federal crime to intimidate or injure a person who is trying to access a reproductive health clinic. It also makes it unlawful to vandalize or otherwise intentionally damage a facility that provides reproductive health care.

Roeder’s ideology was the root of his criminality. Roeder subscribed to a magazine, Prayer and Action News, that posited that killing abortion providers was “justifiable homicide.” Roeder also had ties to a right-wing extremist movement that claimed exemption from U.S. laws and the legal system. Continue reading