One Simple Kit

A community health worker teaches how to make cloth pads. Photo: Nyaya Health

A community health worker teaches how to make cloth pads. Photo: Nyaya Health

Last week, I texted a friend of mine and told her: I have a hard choice before me. When she asked what that was, I smiled as I replied: I must choose between replenishing the MAC mascara that I just ran out of and buying the new Harry Potter book. We both laughed. But really, even as a single mom who falls beneath the poverty level, this was my choice of the day.

I have known hard times. I have lived in my car with my two dogs and I have had to volunteer my time cleaning my son’s school to ensure that he gets an education because I couldn’t afford the monthly tuition. I have taken hits by the ones I love, both physical and metaphorical, and I have had my innocence stolen from me by a boy I hardly knew.


One simple kit is combating poverty, hunger, and gender inequality.


Yet somewhere across a sea, a young girl sits in her room, blood gushing from her for reasons unbeknownst to her. Fear brings tears to her eyes as she struggles to understand why God has cursed her. That is what her mother has taught her. That if such a thing occurs, it is a curse from her creator for being a filthy creature. A girl her age tells her that she has contracted a disease, something she couldn’t remember the three letters to reference, but she knew was deadly.

In a rural region in southern Malawi, a girl who has had her first period may be expected to undergo a “sexual cleansing” ritual, in which she is made to have unprotected sex with a man called a hyena — a risky proposition in a country in which nearly 1 in 10 adults has HIV. Her choice to deny such an offer could result in her entire family being stricken ill or even dead — at least that is what she is told. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Joel Feinman for Pima County Attorney

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 must register to vote by August 1 — and can even register online. Make your voice heard in 2016!

Joel-Feinman scaledAfter graduating from law school at the University of Arizona, Joel Feinman spent almost a decade as a criminal trial lawyer for the Pima County Public Defender’s Office. Last September, he decided to leave that role and devote his time to running as a Democratic candidate for the office of Pima County Attorney, where he believes he could play a bigger role in advancing justice. Since September, Feinman’s campaign messaging has shown the depth and breadth of what justice means to him, from providing legal assistance to refugees to ensuring that at-risk communities aren’t further distressed by misguided policies — and enforcement — that fragment families, criminalize people with mental illnesses, and leave high unemployment in their wake.


“People should be empowered to make their own choices and control their own bodies and determine their own futures.”


One of the strongest examples of Feinman’s commitment to justice has been the time and energy he has put into supporting reproductive justice. Feinman, who describes himself as a lifelong supporter of Planned Parenthood, started volunteering for the organization when he was 12 years old. He has continued to give his time to the organization and served for four years as Chair of Planned Parenthood Arizona’s Board of Directors.

Earlier this month, Feinman received an endorsement from Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, and on July 12, he generously took the time for a telephone interview to answer our questions about his candidacy.

Please tell us a little about your background.

I was born in Tucson and was raised in Phoenix. I went to Northwestern University for undergrad and went back to Tucson for law school. I graduated from the University of Arizona law school in 2007 and went to work at the Pima County Public Defender’s Office as a defense attorney, defending poor people accused of felony offenses. I did that for eight years until I left my job in September of 2015 to run full-time for County Attorney. I’ve also been a volunteer, a donor, and a supporter and a board member of Planned Parenthood in one combination or another since I was about 12 years old. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Barbara LaWall for Pima County Attorney

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 must register to vote by August 1 — and can even register online. Make your voice heard in 2016!

Barbara LaWallIncumbent Barbara LaWall is running for reelection to continue serving as Pima County Attorney — a position she has held for five terms since first being elected in 1996. She was the first woman to hold that office, and she has used her position to bring her vision for the Pima County Attorney’s Office to life. Earlier this year, in a television interview with Jim Nintzel, she said that when her predecessor retired, she ran to fill his seat so she could “engage the community and forge relationships with neighborhoods and schools and businesses.” This kind of community outreach could allow the prosecutor’s office to give children the resources they needed to make good life decisions, steering potential criminals down a more productive path. Just as preventive health care saves money and anguish down the road, so too do programs designed to prevent crime from flourishing.


“The primary element of human liberty is the freedom to control our own bodies, and a major aspect of that is the freedom to make our own medical decisions.”


Despite the improvements that have been implemented over the past two decades, Ms. LaWall says she’s not ready to retire. As she told Nintzel, “I am still very much engaged in this office. It is my calling and my passion … I have a few more ideas that I’d like to bring to the office, and I’m ready to keep on going.” In the below interview, she elaborates on some of the positive changes she has made as Pima County Attorney, as well as some of the ideas she plans to enact during her next term.

Her work as Pima County’s top prosecutor was recognized earlier this year, when the Arizona Women Lawyers Association presented her with the 2016 Sarah Herring Sorin Award — an award that was named in honor of Arizona’s first female attorney, and that was given to Ms. LaWall “in recognition of her long-time support and encouragement for the advancement of women in the legal profession.”

Ms. LaWall’s candidacy is endorsed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, and on July 24, she kindly took the time to answer our questions about her record as Pima County attorney and her campaign for reelection.

Tell us a little about your background.

I grew up in Tucson. My grandparents on both sides were immigrants who came to this country to find the American dream. My parents were first generation Americans and the first in their families to graduate from high school. My dad was an auto parts salesman and my mom worked as a secretary on the airbase. My sister and I were the first generation to attend college. Continue reading

The Roots of Resistance: The Social Justice Context of Sexual Harassment Law

wga_posterEarlier this year, Scandal star Kerry Washington brought sexual harassment into the spotlight with her portrayal of the embattled Anita Hill in HBO’s Confirmation. The movie dramatizes how Hill herself made sexual harassment a topic of high-profile, nationwide debate when she came forward to speak out against Clarence Thomas during his 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

Hill’s testimony gave resolve to others who had experienced similar treatment in the workplace, ushering in a 40-percent increase in the number of sexual harassment claims filed with state and federal agencies in 1991 and 1992. But as inspiring as her testimony was, Hill stood on the shoulders of brave women before her who confronted sexual harassment and helped advance a body of law that makes workplaces, schools, and other institutions safer spaces. That body of law now protects people against “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature,” as the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission summarizes.


The fight against sexual harassment is closely connected to the long struggle for freedom among African Americans.


The breakthrough cases in sexual harassment law provide a revealing look at the short and surprising history of the battles, both in and out of court, that brought the issue into public consciousness. It is a history that shatters popular perceptions of feminism’s second wave and brings to light an overlooked dimension of another fight for social justice: the Civil Rights Movement.

Two Landmark Legal Decisions

When Mechelle Vinson applied for a job at Capital City Federal Savings in 1974, she was only 19 years old, but she had already had part-time jobs at several businesses around Washington, D.C., including a shoe store and an exercise club. For Vinson, lessons in supporting herself had come early. A strained relationship with her father had led her to drop out of high school and make repeated attempts to run away from home. She got married at “14 or 15,” because, as she recounted later, “I thought if I get married, I don’t have to go through problems with my father.” Continue reading

April Is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month

A Planned Parenthood Arizona supporter shared her story of sexual assault with us in observance of National Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

AllSexWantedSexI had never had a boyfriend before and it was flattering to have someone dote on me and give me all of his attention. And he was a wonderful friend. We could talk to one another for hours, especially about music and art. Was I attracted to him? Not really, but did I need to be? He was someone to hang around with; a kindred spirit. College was my first priority. But, after a couple of months of friendship, he was insistent on more. I held him off for a few weeks, but he was not leaving the topic alone.

“I love you. Don’t you love me? If you love me, then sex is the next step. It is the ultimate connection.” Continue reading

Book Club: Missoula – Rape and the Justice System in a College Town

MissoulaGuided by his own experience as a mountaineer, Jon Krakauer first made a name for himself with a handful of books about risk-taking athletes and adventurers: Eiger Dreams, Into the Wild, and Into Thin Air. A blurb inside the last edition of Where Men Win Glory, his book about Arizona’s own Pat Tillman, aptly described him as “at home when it comes to writing about elusive alpha males.”

Krakauer’s latest book is a dramatic departure from that vein of writing, a study not of a lone wolf facing the elements but of a whole community facing its own controversies. Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town (Doubleday, 2015) is Krakauer’s investigation of a spate of rape allegations that shook the University of Montana and the town of Missoula from 2010 to 2012.


Missoula resulted from the author’s quest to become more informed about a crime that is both common and swept under the carpet.


Many of the assaults during that time involved members of UM’s Grizzly football team. As a consequence, the victims who came forward faced not only the normal challenges of pressing charges, such as revisiting their traumas in front of police and courts, but also the anger of local football fans who were convinced of their star players’ innocence. The fierce loyalty of the Grizzlies’ supporters, it seemed, fueled a greater sense of entitlement than accountability among team members.

As the story developed, Krakauer explains, Missoula entered the national spotlight in the pages of major newspapers like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, but it was a viral article on the website Jezebel, “My Weekend in America’s So-Called ‘Rape Capital,'” that captured the town’s newfound notoriety in an epithet that Missoula couldn’t shake. Continue reading

Political Posturing: The Federal 20-Week Abortion Ban

U.S. Representative Trent Franks (R-Arizona) of the 8th congressional district speaking at the Arizona Republican Party 2014 election victory party at the Hyatt Regency in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo: Gage Skidmore

U.S. Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona’s 8th congressional district speaking at the Arizona Republican Party 2014 election victory party in Phoenix. Photo: Gage Skidmore

The idea of a 20-week abortion ban is nothing new for the Grand Canyon State. In 2012, the Arizona Legislature enacted a law prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks, except in cases of narrowly defined medical emergencies. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously struck down the law under clear Supreme Court precedent, and the high court itself later declined to hear Arizona’s appeal.

Even though the Supreme Court refused to uphold Arizona’s initial 20-week ban, the issue remained a central policy concern for Arizona politicians. In June 2013, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a similar bill that would have banned abortions after 20 weeks of gestation. The bill, sponsored by Arizona’s own Rep. Trent Franks, never reached the floor of the Democrat-controlled Senate.


Almost all late-term abortions are due to a life-threatening condition or severe fetal abnormalities.


Yet, despite the outright failure of Arizona politicians to prohibit abortions after 20 weeks, either here in Arizona or at the federal level, they’re back at it again. This year, Rep. Franks successfully spearheaded a bill nearly identical to the one he introduced two years ago. Approved by the House earlier this month, H.R. 36 would severely restrict access to abortion services in the fifth month of pregnancy.

Notably, even Franks’ most recent attack on women’s reproductive rights did not pass the House without controversy; the current edition of H.R. 36 is actually the revised version of a bill introduced in January. A handful of Republicans objected to the original draft because it mandated that women who suffered rape or incest must report all crimes to law enforcement before being eligible to receive a late-term abortion. Continue reading