International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women: November 25, 2018

This Sunday, November 25, is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

The 2018 theme is Orange the World: #HearMeToo and like previous editions, the date marks the launch of 16 days of activism that will conclude on 10 December 2018, International Human Rights Day.

I asked to write about this subject partly because I had written about Brett Kavanaugh before Dr. Christine Blasey Ford came forward publicly to accuse Kavanaugh of attempted rape while they were in high school, and before the hearing where they testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, activating post-traumatic symptoms for me and most of the women I know. Not only did Ford’s testimony ring true for me and thousands of other women; the attacks that followed from Kavanaugh himself and the all-male Republicans on the committee felt like personal assaults. During and immediately after the hearing, women around the country told personal stories of assaults, often stories they had never shared before, years or decades after their assaults.

The trauma of sexual assault victims is deepened by their further victimization by law enforcement, the legal system, and other institutions they report the abuse to. In yet another instance of the continuation of abuse, Ford is still, all these weeks later, receiving death threats, and is unable to return to her home or workplace. Continue reading

STD Awareness: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) have been with us since the dawn of time — or at least since the dawn of sex. And, as we continue to hone our approach to preventing and treating them, STDs will always grab headlines, whether the news is bad or good.

The Good

Can the HIV epidemic be stopped?

For more than a decade, AIDS, the illness caused by HIV, was seen as a death sentence. It wasn’t until the mid-’90s that antiretroviral drugs kept the virus in check, prolonging lifespans for people with access to these medications and transforming the infection into a chronic disease. Now, those dreaming of an end to HIV are seeing reasons for optimism. No, a cure isn’t in the works — but many researchers believe we can end the epidemic through prevention.

Ending HIV transmission will take money and an efficient health care infrastructure, but we have the tools to do it. It starts with expanding access to HIV testing — an estimated 15 percent of Americans with HIV are unaware of their status. The next step is to ensure that everyone testing positive has access to antiretroviral drugs. When used correctly, these medications keep viral levels so low that the chances of transmission are virtually nonexistent. More recently, medications called PrEP — pre-exposure prophylaxis — enable people without HIV to protect themselves from infection. Condoms, of course, are a time-tested prevention tool. Gathered together, we have a pretty mighty arsenal. Here in the United States, we could stop HIV transmission in its tracks in just a handful of years. Of course, people all around the world will need access to testing and treatment to halt this scourge on a global level. Continue reading

Vote on November 6: Pink Out the Vote Tomorrow

Not happy with the Trump administration? Tomorrow is our chance to make our voices heard. Our health and rights are at stake. If candidates don’t stand with us on access to safe and legal abortion, affordable birth control, care at Planned Parenthood, or health care equity, then they don’t deserve to represent us. Continue reading

Due Protections: The Pregnancy Discrimination Act at 40

Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 1977. Photo: Lynn Gilbert

Today, Susan Struck’s political positions are nothing that would stick out in a red state like Arizona. A few years ago, she joined the chorus of support for the once-threatened A-10 fighter jet program at Tucson’s Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. In a 2010 article on immigration, a writer noted her concerns about automatic citizenship for U.S.-born children.

Despite the rightward tilt that would be assigned to her views today, Struck was once at the center of a fight for reproductive justice, a cause taken up by a young Ruth Bader Ginsburg, back when “The Notorious RBG” was still a lawyer for the ACLU. It was that fight that led to Ginsburg’s involvement in the writing of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, a landmark piece of legislation that turns 40 this month.


Despite 40 years of protections, pregnancy discrimination hasn’t gone away.


Now retired in an Arizona ranch community, Struck first arrived in the Copper State at the end of the 1960s, when she enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and was stationed at Davis-Monthan. She told Elle in a 2014 interview that she reveled in her newfound independence from the family and church she left in Kentucky. “She went on the Pill and stopped attending confession,” the article recounts, and she spent her free time enjoying her sexual freedom and the chance to experience Tucson’s foothills in a newly acquired Camaro.

Still, Struck wanted more excitement, so she asked to be sent to Vietnam. She was assigned to Phù Cát Air Force Base, where she quickly hit it off with an F-4 pilot — and ended up pregnant. Struck understood that the Air Force gave officers in her situation two choices: get an abortion or be honorably discharged. It was 1970 then, still a few years before Roe v. Wade, but the armed forces had made abortion legal ahead of civilian society. 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

STD Awareness: Can Older Adults Receive the HPV Vaccine?

female-patient-with-female-doctorWhen the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines were introduced, a lot of people were excited about protection from a sexually transmitted virus that could cause cancers, including cervical cancer, anal cancer, and head-and-neck cancer. It wasn’t just any old vaccine, it was a shot that could prevent cancer. Cancer!

In fact, a lot of people were disappointed they were too old to take advantage of an anti-cancer vaccine, which was initially approved for people as old as 26. We were given a lot of reasons why people above that age were “too old,” such as the assumption that anyone older than 26 has probably been sexually active for years and would have already contracted the most common strains of HPV.


While getting vaccinated before becoming sexually active is optimal, the HPV vaccine can still benefit people who have already had sex.


But there are compelling reasons to vaccinate people in their late 20s and beyond. In fact, Gardasil 9 was recently approved for people as old as 45. That’s great news for those of us who missed out on the HPV vaccine the first time around. We might never have had any sexual contact, and therefore were never at risk for catching the sexually transmitted virus. We might have found ourselves widowed or divorced after years or decades of monogamy. We might have been sexually active with multiple partners during that time. Whatever our circumstances, those of us who are 45 or younger can now consider HPV vaccination.

HPV and the “Older” Individual

When Cervarix and Gardasil, the first HPV vaccines, were released, they only protected against two cancer-causing HPV strains, HPV-16 and HPV-18, which are responsible for 70 percent of cervical cancers (Gardasil protects against two additional wart-causing HPV strains). A few years ago, Gardasil 9 hit the market, targeting five additional cancer-causing HPV strains — increasing the chances that even sexually active recipients could be protected from HPV strains they hadn’t encountered. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Mark Manoil for Arizona Treasurer

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!

Mark Manoil came of age in Phoenix during the 1960s and ’70s, an era that saw his hometown boom as it built out infrastructure and provided children with quality education. It was a time period when “government understood how responsible investment could help our communities thrive” — in contrast to today’s Arizona, where lawmakers have turned away from that forward-thinking belief in responsible investment. He saw it when his family struggled during the 2008 recession while the government chose to bail out banks, and he sees it in millennials burdened with student debt. Mr. Manoil is hoping for a change of course, in which lawmakers reinvest in Arizona’s citizens and allow them to prosper — and he’s running for Arizona treasurer so he can be at the helm for these changes.


“We should be pulling from all of the great minds in this state rather than ignoring them.”


The state treasurer oversees Arizona’s $40 billion budget and $15 billion in assets, and is responsible for distributing taxpayer money to state agencies, local governments, and public schools. The treasurer also has influence over investments, loans, and state lands. Arizona’s current treasurer is stepping down from her post, leaving the seat open for either Republican Kimberly Yee and Democrat Mark Manoil.

As a state senator, Ms. Yee consistently opposed reproductive rights and received the lowest ratings possible from Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona and NARAL Arizona. She also supported tax cuts for corporations, a move that Mr. Manoil says has made the state too dependent on regressive sales taxes that disproportionately affect lower-income people. Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona is excited to endorse Mr. Manoil for Arizona treasurer, trusting him to fight for families over corporations.

Mr. Manoil generously took the time to tell us more about his background and his candidacy on October 4.

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

I am a fourth-generation Arizonan with roots stretching back to territorial days. My great grandfather and his brother both served as Arizona territorial treasurers. I am a proud graduate of our public schools and a prouder public school parent. Today, I’m a small business owner focused on enforcing our property tax laws, especially on greedy speculators trying to skirt taxes. More and more we see people who can’t pay off their college debt, can’t afford a house, can’t qualify for a small business loan, and can’t afford to start a family. Our kids can’t live at home forever — things have to change. When the government stops working for the people, we must elect new leaders to fix it. I will fight to create opportunity and restore dignity to an office that for too long has let politicians get away with bad budgets and self-dealing. Continue reading