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 Advocates of Arizona 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!
Jo Holt is running for an Arizona Senate seat in the new Legislative District 11, which covers the northwestern parts of Pima County and western parts of Pinal County. This area includes Oro Valley, Marana, Avra Valley, Arizona City, Ak-Chin, Maricopa, SaddleBrooke, and Catalina, as well as many other cities and towns. On her website, Holt states, “Arizona is worth fighting for, and I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and work for the best interest of all the people of Arizona.” It’s also very clear that she believes the women of Arizona are worth fighting for as well, and that Holt will be willing to roll up her sleeves to protect women’s rights to health care.
What follows is an exclusive interview conducted with Holt on September 26, 2012.
“The right of women to determine their reproductive choices … is being undermined here in Arizona with the most restrictive laws in the nation.”
Tell us a little about your background.
I am a retired research scientist, and this is my first time to run for public office. Part of my career was spent at the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Arizona in the 1980s. My son James was born at Tucson Medical Center. My career took me to the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, where I spent about 15 years. I retired early to take care of my husband, who passed away last year after a long battle with early-onset Alzheimer’s. So, my background is split between being a mom, a research scientist, and a caregiver.
From 2010 through 2012, your opponent Al Melvin has supported 13 bills (and sponsored many of them) that sought to regulate and stigmatize abortion care out of existence, defund Planned Parenthood, and harass patients and staff of Planned Parenthood and other women’s health care providers. For example, in the previous legislative session, there were many bad bills that negatively affected access to birth control (HB2625), funding for family planning (HB2800), abortion (HB2036), and unbiased information in schools about unintended pregnancies (SB1009). What kind of beneficial legislation would you like to see introduced, and why do you think it’s important to fight for it?
According to the laws of this country, a woman can legally choose to end her pregnancy. A state bill that reaffirms this right, and removes government restrictions on a woman’s ability to control her own reproductive cycle, should be introduced.
On a Center for Arizona Policy survey, Al Melvin also indicated that he favors the protection of professionals from being required to provide services that violate their personal moral or religious beliefs. This means that pharmacists would be able to refuse to dispense birth control, emergency contraception, or medication abortion prescribed by patients’ doctors. How will you represent the interests of the women in your district on this issue?
I do not believe that the personal morals of a trained professional, such as a pharmacist, should be substituted for the personal morals of their customer. It is the responsibility of a professional to provide the service for which they have been trained, and to be able to separate the personal from the professional. This type of legislation has been promoted as protecting the religious freedom of the pharmacist, without regard to the religious freedom of the patient.
Why do you think it is important for people to make their own health care choices?
It is a fundamental issue of the exercise of personal freedom in a manner that does not interfere with another person’s personal freedom.
Why do you support comprehensive sex education in our schools?
It’s difficult to imagine any situation not helped by education. Comprehensive sex education has been demonstrated to significantly decrease teen pregnancy rates. Choices that young people make can change the entire course of not only their lives, but also the lives of parents or guardians. So the stakes are high, and a young person should have all the information at their disposal in order to help them make a wise decision.
Why is it important for you to be endorsed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona?
The fundamental right of women to be able to control their own bodies will, unfortunately, always be under attack. And, equally as unfortunate, there will always be a population of women who want to restrict their own rights. Planned Parenthood has helped millions of women to prevent unplanned pregnancies, and I am very proud to have received their endorsement. It is very important to me to stand up for the right of women to determine their reproductive choices, which is being undermined here in Arizona with the most restrictive laws in the nation.
For more information about Jo Holt’s campaign — including more detailed positions as well as other individuals and groups who have endorsed her — you can find her website at Holt4Senate.com, and she’s on Twitter @Holt4Senate.
With all the redistricting that’s taken place this year, you might not even know what legislative district you’re in — but you can click here to find out! And, regardless of which legislative district in Arizona you live in, you can contact us if you’d like to volunteer for an endorsed candidate in your legislative district.