Hobby Lobby: Birth Control and the Law

Birth control activists Margaret Sanger and Fania Mindell inside the Brownsville birth control clinic, circa October 1916

Birth control activists Fania Mindell and Margaret Sanger inside the Brownsville birth control clinic, circa October 1916

In 1964, when I was a 16-year-old college freshman, my Bronx pediatrician asked if I was sexually active, and offered to prescribe birth control whenever I started having sex.

In 1964, his doing so was legal in New York because of a 1918 ruling by Judge Frederick E. Crane of the New York Court of Appeals, but not in Massachusetts, where I was in school.

Birth control is only legal in this country because of a concerted campaign of civil disobedience carried out by Margaret Sanger and her followers. Here is a brief look at the legal history of birth control in the United States.


In 1917, a judge opined that women did not have “the right to copulate with a feeling of security that there will be no resulting conception.”


In 1873, the Comstock Act was passed into law, making the dissemination of “obscene” material through the mail illegal. Any attempts in the early part of the 20th century to teach about sexuality and the prevention of pregnancy — including Margaret Sanger’s work as well as Mary Ware Dennett’s The Sex Side of Life, which she wrote for her sons when she could not find any adequate literature to assist in educating them — were prosecuted under the Comstock Act.

Margaret Sanger witnessed her mother’s early death after 11 live births and seven miscarriages. Later, as a nurse on New York’s Lower East Side, she witnessed poor women dying from attempting to abort unwanted or dangerous pregnancies. She decided to challenge the Comstock Act. Continue reading

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Single-Shot Voting in Arizona on November 4

What is single-shot voting?

The Arizona governor’s race is straight-forward: There is one seat open, and you can only vote for one candidate to fill that seat. Some races have more than one seat open and there are multiple candidates running to fill multiple seats. In the district races for Arizona House of Representative seats, there are two seats to fill and often more than two candidates are running.


In House races in which we only endorse one candidate, you can maximize your vote’s impact with a single-shot vote.


What happens if a voter looks at their options for those races and sees only one candidate who aligns with their values and goals for the state? Easy. You vote for only that candidate. When a voter casts their ballot for only one candidate instead of two, that vote automatically receives a greater percentage of all ballots cast. Your candidate now has a better chance at winning the election. That is single-shot voting.

Each of the following four PPAA-endorsed candidates are the only advocates for reproductive justice and LGBTQ rights running in their districts. You can help these individuals by voting only for them.

IMG_0920 (2)Carmen Casillas is the only Democratic candidate for Arizona House of Representatives in Legislative District 8. The other two options in this race are Frank Pratt and T.J. Shope — both incumbents, Republicans, and proactive in ensuring that an Arizona woman’s reproductive rights remain extremely limited. Casillas’ previous political experience ranges from vice mayor and councilwoman for the city of Globe. She also believes all people should be treated equally and with respect: “it doesn’t matter — color, race, creed religion, sexuality.” Casillas has made it clear that working to increase the equality and respect of Arizona women is a priority: “I’m going to aggressively fight for women to have the right to choose their own health care.” Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Scott Prior for State Senator, LD 16

The Arizona general election will be held on November 4, 2014, and early voting starts today! 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.” Make your voice heard in 2014!

Scott Prior scaledCovering parts of Pinal and Maricopa counties, including Gold Canyon, Apache Junction, and parts of Mesa, Legislative District 16 is home to more than 220,000 Arizona residents. Scott Prior made the decision to run for Senate in LD 16 so that his fellow constituents could be represented by someone who advocates for workers, makes education a priority, and supports equality for Arizonans regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. Both he and his spouse Cara are seeking to represent LD 16 to bring more attention to those issues in the legislature, with Cara running for one of the open seats in the House of Representatives. Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed both Scott and Cara Prior because of their commitment to reproductive justice.

Mr. Prior returns to the campaign trail after running in 2012. At that time, he shared his thoughts with this blog on the many issues that needed to be addressed in the legislature, including Arizona’s high teen birth rate, inadequate sex education, and health care policy that interferes with private decisions between doctors and patients.

On October 4, Mr. Prior generously took the time to share his thoughts with us again, highlighting many of those same issues but explaining why he is hopeful for a better outcome in this year’s election.


“Let’s leave the practice of medicine to the doctors … and keep legislation out of it.”


It’s great to talk to you again! How has your commitment to serving Arizona grown over the past two years? On the policy level, what has happened during that time to give you hope, and what has happened to strengthen your convictions?

Over the past two years, it has become even more imperative to get common sense people in the state legislature. We have seen a continuing shift over the past several years of elected officials working for the benefit of corporations and special interests, and away from helping the people of our great state. I firmly believe that until we can elect people who will concentrate on the important issues of the economy, creating jobs, and fixing our failing education, we will continue to be the laughingstock of the late-night comedy circuit.

This election cycle will be different, I believe, as my opponent doesn’t have the [same] name recognition and popularity as my opponent in 2012. This gives me hope that I might be able to make a difference, and have a good chance that this election will be much closer of a contest. My convictions are strengthened by the fact that in the 2014 primary, I gathered more votes than I did in the 2012 primary. This means that people are more interested in getting their voices heard, even in a midterm election.

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?

I personally believe that HB 2284 is just another way for those who don’t believe women can make their own health care choices to try to intimidate and prevent women from exercising their constitutional rights. If those same people who supported this bill spent as much time working on taking care of children after they are born as they do before they are born, then my district would not have a 16 percent child poverty rate, 11 percent of the children in my district would not be without health insurance, and education statewide would not be ranked so low compared to other states. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Eric Meyer for State Representative, LD 28

The Arizona general election will be held on November 4, 2014, and early voting starts today! 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.” Make your voice heard in 2014!

Eric_Meyer_Pic_004[1] (1)In his six years in the Arizona House of Representatives, Dr. Eric Meyer has worked to make education and health care access legislative priorities; in fact, he is now the ranking member of both the House Education and House Health committees. Last legislative session, he was part of a bipartisan effort to pass bills to stop sex trafficking and to aid victims of that trafficking. As he seeks to represent the Phoenix-area Legislative District 28 for one more term, he will continue to advocate for the needs of his constituents and all Arizonans.

Dr. Meyer was kind enough to take the time for an interview on October 1, 2014.


“Bills that legislate the practice of medicine put both patients and their health care providers at risk.”


How has your commitment to serving Arizona grown over the past two years? On the policy level, what has happened during that time to give you hope, and what has happened to strengthen your convictions?

In the last two years I have worked in a bipartisan fashion to pass sensible legislation that improves the quality of life for all Arizonans and successfully fought to stop some, but not all, negative legislation. My hope is to return to the Capitol and use my skills to advance policy that will move Arizona forward.

Last legislative session, you voted against HB 2284, which now 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?

Warrantless inspections of abortion clinics were held unconstitutional prior to the passage of this legislation. The question of constitutionality was raised in relation to an Arizona-specific abortion licensing statute in 1999. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, in Tucson Women’s Clinic v. Eden, held that warrantless inspections of abortion clinics are unconstitutional under the fourth Amendment because abortion clinics have a heightened expectation of privacy due to the hostility to the services being provided. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Randall Friese for State Representative, LD 9

The Arizona primary election will be held on August 26, 2014, and early voting began on July 31. 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.”  Make your voice heard in 2014!

Randall FrieseDr. Randall Friese is running to represent central and northwestern Tucson in the House of Representatives. On July 23, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Dr. Friese at Bentley’s House of Coffee & Tea to discuss his campaign. We talked about his background in medicine, his position on reproductive rights, and the stark contrast between him and his Republican opponent, Ethan Orr.

I found Dr. Friese to be personable and passionate about Arizona. He is a man who has a deep commitment to this community, and will work hard to do what is best, regardless of where that takes him. He and fellow Democrat Victoria Steele have both earned our endorsement, and we hope that voters will send them to the Capitol in November to represent Legislative District 9!


“Sex education is necessary for a stable career, which benefits everybody.”


Tell us a little about your background.

Currently I am a trauma surgeon. After I finished my service with the United States Navy, I was faculty in Texas. I had the opportunity to go to a few places, but my wife and I chose Tucson, and this is our home now.

After the [2011 Tucson] shooting, I started paying attention to what was going on at the Arizona State Capitol. I wanted to participate. I enrolled in two programs with Leading for Change Arizona, and with the support of some great people I made the decision to enter politics. Continue reading

Tipping the Balance: Why Primary Elections Matter

Arizona state Senate“We will remember in November,” say activists vowing to effect change at the polls. General elections, held in November, are contests between the candidates nominated by their political parties and decided by voters. They are phenomenally important, as their outcomes determine who our presidents, senators, representatives, and other legislators will be.


Not all Democratic candidates support reproductive rights, so check our list of endorsed candidates before voting a Democratic ballot!


What rhymes with August? “You’ll eat sawdust in August”? “We want laws just in August”? I’ll work on that, but for now you should know that the primary elections will be held in Arizona on August 26, and many important races will be decided in August rather than November. How is that possible? Sometimes, only one political party has candidates running for an office, meaning that whoever wins their party’s nomination in the primary election won’t face opposition in November.

In three such races, all featuring Democrats running for the state Senate, reproductive rights are at stake. So, in case you were wondering why voting in the primary elections is so important, read on to learn about these crucial races! And tell your friends in these Phoenix-area legislative districts that the decisions they make at the polls have the potential to bring balance to our state legislature in terms of reproductive health care access. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Angela Cotera for State Senator, LD 19

The Arizona primary election will be held on August 26, 2014, with early voting beginning on July 31. 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.” Make your voice heard in 2014!

acotera_cropDr. Angela Cotera has experience living and working in multiple areas of Arizona. A graduate of Flagstaff High School, she worked on post-doctoral research at the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory in Tucson. Dr. Cotera now lives in Avondale, where she seeks to represent Legislative District 19 in the Arizona State Senate. In addition to reproductive health care access, Dr. Cotera has made stronger schools and secure jobs key issues in her campaign.

She took the time for this interview on July 26, 2014.


“Our mothers fought for us and thought they had won, but it now it seems we have to fight yet again, this time for our daughters.”


Tell us a little about your background.

Arizona has been my home for 47 years, although I spent time in Texas and California while earning two bachelor’s degrees from the University of Texas and a doctorate in applied physics from Stanford.

I learned about the importance of Planned Parenthood from the stories my mother told me of the 11 children and one back-alley abortion that my grandmother endured in the 1930s. Planned Parenthood was also a part of my early-married life, helping me to achieve my twin goals of building both a loving marriage and a successful career.

You are an alumna of Emerge Arizona, an organization whose goal is to increase the number of Democratic women in public office. How did this program impact you, and why do you believe it’s important that these voices be heard and represented in the government?

Emerge Arizona literally changed my life. I had always been interested in running for office, but as a research astrophysicist, I really did not know how; thanks to Emerge, now I know. As you may imagine, coming from a field where only 12 percent are women, I am used to fighting for women to be recognized and given equal treatment. I know that we bring equal talent and abilities to the table, but often a different perspective. That perspective must be well represented within our government.

Your Democratic opponent in the LD 19 Senate race is Lupe Contreras, who signed the Center for Arizona Policy’s statement denouncing Roe v. Wade. How do your views on reproductive health care differ from those of your opponent? Why is it important to protect the gains set forth by Roe v. Wade?

The “Pro-Life Proclamation” that he signed called for all Arizona legislators to make sure that full citizenship rights begin the moment an egg is fertilized. This basically would mean that women have no more rights than an incubator, which is outrageous. I believe that all women have sovereignty over their own bodies, and no one has a right to tell a woman what she can or cannot do within her own body.  Continue reading