Q&A With Our New Director of Public Policy, Jodi Liggett

jodiOn January 6, Jodi Liggett joined Planned Parenthood Arizona’s team as the director of public policy. She will work with communities to advocate for reproductive health and rights, and will collaborate with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona to reach out to voters and legislators to advance a vision of greater access to comprehensive sexuality education, family-planning services, and abortion care. In a state where lawmakers are so hostile to these objectives, Jodi has a lot on her plate!


“The most effective thing we can do is advocate for comprehensive and accurate sexuality education.”


In the following Q&A, Jodi addresses the recent controversy regarding comprehensive sex education in Tempe high schools, and names some of the bad bills that have already been proposed so far in the 2014 legislative session. And, with the gubernatorial elections slated for later in the year, she talks about her hopes for the future — an Arizona government that actually reflects the will of Arizonans, the majority of whom support Planned Parenthood’s mission.


Welcome aboard, and I hope your first month with us has been a positive experience! Please tell us a little about your background and what makes you so passionate about protecting everyone’s access to sexual and reproductive health care.

I am thrilled to join the Planned Parenthood family, and feel like this role is the culmination of many years working on behalf of Arizona’s women and vulnerable populations. When I graduated from law school in the late ’90s, I worked as legislative staff on welfare reform — a huge policy change that affected tens of thousands of poor single mothers struggling to raise their children. Later, I worked in Gov. Jane Hull’s administration as her policy adviser for human services. In both roles, my biggest successes came from finding common ground, avoiding partisan posturing, and working from the middle. Continue reading

Mythbusting: Does Abortion Cause Breast Cancer?

breast-examNew England Journal of Medicine. Journal of the American Medical Association. Annals of Internal MedicineJournal of American Physicians and Surgeons.

One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn’t belong. But how can most laypeople differentiate between these medical journals? The dry, pithy titles seem to tell you exactly what’s underneath their covers. So if I told you that, according to a study in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, abortion increases risk for breast cancer, would you believe me? Well, why not? The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), which publishes the journal, sounds legit.


Health decisions must be guided by reliable evidence, and when agenda-driven policies misinform, patients cannot make informed decisions.


Except that AAPS is infamous for its agenda-driven views, and its journal is used to deny climate change and the dangers of secondhand smoking, promote the debunked idea that vaccines cause autism, advocate for closed borders in overtly racist anti-immigration pieces, reject the causal relationship between HIV and AIDS, and perpetuate a far-right political worldview. The organization opposes any government involvement in health care, including the FDA, Medicare, the Affordable Care Act, and regulation of the medical profession.

Medical journals, like all scientific journals, are where researchers share and critique each other’s work. Before anything is published it undergoes “peer review,” in which experts evaluate studies for quality — good study design, reasonable interpretation of results, etc. The Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, however, has been criticized for placing ideology over the presentation of meticulously gathered scientific evidence, and is not indexed in academic databases like MEDLINE. In 2007, AAPS joined conservative organizations in filing a lawsuit against the FDA, arguing against emergency contraception’s over-the-counter status. So, when the journal publishes articles purporting a link between abortion and breast cancer, we should all be raising our eyebrows in collective skepticism.

You might have heard abortion opponents’ claims that abortion can raise one’s risk for breast cancer later in life. So let’s get something out of the way right now: The very best scientific evidence does not support a link between abortion and breast cancer. Prominent medical organizations, including the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the World Health Organization, have all examined the entirety of the research and found that the largest and most methodologically sound studies fail to reveal a link between abortion and breast cancer. Yet still opponents of abortion include this factoid in misinformation campaigns to instill fear into people making difficult, private decisions, often during periods of vulnerability. Continue reading

A Conversation With Faye Wattleton: Part 2, Belief and Mission

Ms. Wattleton speaks out against George H.W. Bush’s gag rule, which banned any mention of abortion in federally funded family-planning programs.

Faye Wattleton was president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America from 1978 to 1992. She was generous enough to speak to me on January 7, 2013, and throughout the month of February we’ll be sharing her experiences and perspectives in observance of Black History Month. In this second installment, we discuss her religious beliefs and their influence on her work, which came up often in our conversation.

Religion was a strong influence during Faye Wattleton’s childhood and remains so in her adult life. She grew up in a fundamentalist family, and that religion, along with her experiences as a nurse, brought her to a belief in individual freedom that was absolute, including the conviction that every woman has the right to make her own reproductive choices.

When I asked about her work for reproductive rights, she said, “My view about that is perhaps most reflective of my religious upbringing, with respect to who shall judge. Judge not that you be not judged.”


“Our reproduction is still a proxy for the larger question of our full status as human beings and as citizens.”


That religious upbringing was shaped by the fact that her mother was an ordained minister in the Church of God, and her calling determined the course of Wattleton family life. While Faye was still little, this calling took her and her parents away from St. Louis and the safety of extended family. When she reached school age, her parents left her with families within the church, each year in a different place. During this time, she learned to rely on herself and think independently, perhaps preparing her to be a leader while keeping her within the protective bubble of the greater Church of God community.

The Church of God is Christian, Protestant, foundational, evangelical, and charismatic. Members believe in prayer, the inerrancy and literal truth of the Bible, personal salvation, and the unique, individual revelation of the Holy Spirit, which might include speaking in tongues. Ms. Wattleton often heard her mother preach and witnessed the emotional responses of her listeners in churches and revival meetings.

While her mother evangelized, bringing others to what she saw as the only way to God, Ms. Wattleton’s sense of mission came from the conviction that each person acts within unique life circumstances that must be respected. When I asked about this difference between her mother and herself, she replied that it “probably was due to my early training as a nurse. I went to college as a 16-year-old, graduated at 20. And so I was really deeply influenced by my professional training and exposure [to other people’s lives and problems]. It’s possible that, had I chosen a different profession, I may have seen life differently, but this is the profession that I chose.” Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Dave Joseph for State Representative, LD 11

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.” Make your voice heard in 2012!

Dave Joseph is running for the Arizona House of Representatives in Legislative District 11. He is the only Democratic candidate, running against two Republicans, Steve Smith and Adam Kwasman. Although there are two seats open, we are recommending “single shot voting” in this district. This means that we recommend voting only for Dave Joseph, which actually benefits him, as that vote will be weighted in his favor.

Joseph was interviewed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona on October 6, 2012; our questions and his responses are recorded below.


“Just as I wouldn’t want a politician to perform surgery on me, I certainly don’t want them directing caregivers how to speak to and treat patients.”


Tell us a little about your background.

I am a successful business owner and job creator. Over my long career, I have acquired and run local television stations in Arizona, Missouri, and Mississippi. By re-investing and re-focusing resources, I was able to skillfully turn around stations that had been on the verge of bankruptcy. The result was more jobs, better pay and benefits for the staff, and a large return for investors.  Recently I have been consulting with the Regional Transportation Authority of Pima County, which has given me an appreciation for the people and processes that make government function.

My wife, Michele, and I have been Oro Valley residents for over 20 years. As the father of three exceptional daughters, I know the value of a great educational system and the importance of unrestrained access to health care.

In the previous legislative session, there were a lot of bad bills that negatively affected access to birth control (HB2625), funding for family planning (HB2800), abortion (HB2036), and unbiased information about unintended pregnancies in public schools (SB1009). What kind of beneficial legislation would you like to see introduced, and why do you think it’s important to fight for it?

The primary function of government is to protect its people. We should be working to move health policy forward in this state, innovating to lower costs while improving outcomes. The demonization and defunding of Planned Parenthood is another example of the irresponsible choice of serving ideologues over effective and efficient health care. Government has no business intruding in the freedom of our citizens to privately choose medical providers. Planned Parenthood plays an important role in reducing the number of unintended pregnancies by providing access to education, information, and affordable birth control. Further, the recently passed 20-week abortion ban is so intrusive that it is applicable two weeks before conception even occurs. Government and business must refrain from interfering between a woman, her doctor, and her faith. Continue reading

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • Since when in the history of ever has abortion based solely on race or sex been a prevalent issue in Arizona and why is Rep. Trent Franks wasting the legislature’s time with this fiasco? Does he really think a pregnant woman wakes up one day and feels compelled to abort because she’s just grasped the reality that the fetus inside her will grow into a baby OF HER OWN OR THE CHILD’S FATHER’S RACE?! Also, how do they intend to enforce something like that? #IsThisRealLife? (New American Media)
  • Oh and that’s only one of the craptacular anti-choice bills coming out of our legislature. #ItGetsWorse (AZ Central)
  • It’s complete and total bunk that insurance coverage of birth control impinges upon religious freedom. (RH Reality Check)
  • Seven states sue over Obama birth control coverage rule; surprisingly Arizona isn’t one of the usual suspects! (MSNBC)
  • Since no one with a uterus was present at the Republicans’ farce of a hearing on birth control last week, the Dems had their own hearing — with actual women! (HuffPo)
  • Good News: The Virginia bill requiring forced transvaginal ultrasounds on all women seeking abortions has been annihilated. (Associated Press)
  • Virginia’s “personhood” bill is also a goner! (USA Today)
  • Putting low-income women’s health at risk, Texas defies Obama administration, bars abortion providers from Medicaid. (The Hill)
  • MAYDAY! The rising power of crisis pregnancy centers is a cause for great alarm! (American Independent)

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • The War On Contraception = A war on women (XX Factor)
  • Obama Sacks Bush-Era Contraception Rules (Huff Po)
  • New study shows access to over-the-counter birth control improves usage (Feministing)
  • Jacksonville, FL mayoral candidate defends his joke about bombing abortion clinics because his audience was catholic and “100% pro-life”. Apparently “pro-lifers” find death funny…who knew?! (Jacksonville.com)
  • Check out Salon’s powerful article on why men need to speak up about abortion (Salon)
  • Read up on the side effects of the GOP’s war on family planning (Wa Po)
  • Infamous, anti-choice, race-baiting billboards make their unwelcome debut in Manhattan. Their message? “The most dangerous place for an African-American is in the womb.” Jiminy Christmas. There really are no words… (NBC NY)
  • Ga. Law Could Give Women the Death Penalty for having a miscarriage (Mother Jones)
  • Despite the fact that a 2006 congressional investigation found that “20 of 23 federally funded “Crisis Pregnancy Centers” contacted by staff investigators requesting information about an unintended pregnancy were told false or misleading information about the potential risks of an abortion”, South Dakota has introduced a bill that would mandate women receive “pre-abortion counseling” at these very businesses. (TPM)

ACT NOW – More Attacks on Planned Parenthood in Arizona

WE NEED YOU TO TAKE ACTION on BOTH ITEMS below:
TAKE ACTION on SB1390
TAKE ACTION on HB2384

You wouldn’t believe what we’re seeing in the Arizona Legislature. Anti-choice legislators have launched one of the most shocking attacks on women’s health we’ve ever seen. Last Wednesday easily could have been dubbed “Anti-Woman Day” at the Arizona Legislature. Several anti-choice bills were voted on in two committees that day, including two resolution bills, HCR2034 and SCR1017, which have the singular purpose of singing the praises of deceptive Crisis Pregnancy Centers, as well as three of the other anti-woman bills we alerted you to last week, SB1246 (the bill that redefines taking a pill as a surgical abortion), HB2443 (Abortion; Sex and Race Selection; Prohibition) and SB1265 (Tax Credit Ban on Planned Parenthood). Despite all of your emails last week, all of these bills passed out of their committees.

Take a moment and view the hearings on these bills; you will be shocked! Our legislators hear the truth about how these bills will hurt women AND VOTE FOR THEM ANYWAY! They need to hear from you!  Continue reading