Meet Our Candidates: Brandon Dwyer for State Representative, LD 15

The Arizona general election will be held on November 8, 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 election, you must register to vote by October 10 — and can even register online. Make your voice heard in 2016!

brandondwyer-scaledBrandon Dwyer is running for the Arizona House of Representatives in Legislative District 15. LD 15 covers the northwest, north, and northeast areas of Phoenix and has approximately 133,019 registered voters. Mr. Dwyer would like to see Arizona level the playing field for all citizens with regard to education. He believes in equal access for all regardless of race, color, religion, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, ancestry, age, veteran status, disability, or military service.

“The state should not be between me and my doctor.”

Mr. Dwyer generously shared time with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona through an in-person interview on September 10, 2016, to discuss his background and his campaign.

Tell us a little about your background.

I lived in Oregon for 26 years before moving to Phoenix in 2005 to attend the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute. After I graduated, I moved to Texas, where I lived and worked for 10 years. I missed Phoenix, so I made the decision to move back and make Arizona my home.  I became actively involved in politics as a member of Democracy for America. I was a precinct committeeman for four years and served as the legislative district committee chair for LD 15 from 2014 until early this year, when I decided to run for office. Continue reading

Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt: Finally, Facts Matter

Tex-Supremes BlogOn Monday, June 27, 2016, the Supreme Court decided that Texas HB2 was unconstitutional, eliminating requirements for Texas doctors to have hospital admitting privileges near their clinics and for abortion clinics to become surgical facilities. Many fine summaries of this landmark decision popped up within hours of the decision. See Planned Parenthood’s press release and “The Court once again makes the ‘undue-burden’ test a referendum on the facts” on SCOTUS Blog.

On Monday, the Supreme Court demanded that laws be supported by facts.

What struck me most about the majority opinions written by Justices Breyer and Ginsburg was the lack of assertion and conjecture so often found in the court’s previous abortion case decisions. Recall Justice Kennedy’s 2007 Gonzales v. Carhart opinion upholding Congress’ Partial-Birth Abortion Act of 2003: “We find no reliable data” that abortion causes women emotional harm, but we find it nonetheless “self-evident” and “unexceptional to conclude” that “some women” who choose to terminate their pregnancies suffer “regret,” “severe depression,” “loss of esteem,” and other ills. “Some women”? Did we really uphold a law based upon this kind of neo-paternalistic, fuzzy thinking?

Not this time out. The Supreme Court put future litigants on notice: Facts matter, science matters, logic matters, common-sense inference matters. Unsupported assertions? Nah. Consultants parading as scientists? Not so much. In workmanlike fashion, dealing with abortion in a frank and unapologetic way, the majority read into law 15 separate District Court findings of fact gleaned from stipulations, depositions, and testimony. Further, the court chastised Texas for “attempting to label an opposing expert witness, Doctor Grossman, as irresponsible.” Breyer writes, “making a hypothesis — and then attempting to verify that hypothesis with further studies, as Dr. Grossman did — is not irresponsible. It is an essential element of the scientific method. The District Court’s decision to credit Dr. Grossman’s testimony was sound, particularly given that Texas provided no credible experts to rebut it.” Wow — The Supremes defend the scientific method. Color me happy.  Continue reading

Reproductive Justice?

President Bill Clinton stands by as Ruth Bader Ginsburg is sworn in as associate Supreme Court Justice in 1993

President Bill Clinton stands by as Ruth Bader Ginsburg is sworn in as associate Supreme Court justice in 1993

When Justice Antonin Scalia died on February 13, 2016, it was the death of more than just one man. For the first time in 20 years, the fairly reliable conservative tilt of the Supreme Court vanished. Now there were four generally liberal justices, three remaining consistently conservative justices, and Anthony Kennedy, a moderate who, though usually conservative, could move to the left, especially on social issues, as we saw in his eloquent opinion in support of same-sex marriage. If Kennedy voted with the conservatives, it would result in a tie, not a 5-4 decision. In case of a tied vote on the Supreme Court, the lower court ruling holds, and if there are conflicting rulings in different circuits, we continue with different law in different parts of the country.

Or the court could order a rehearing of a case once a new justice is seated.

The makeup of the Supreme Court is a glaring example of how much is at stake in presidential elections.

The political wheels started turning immediately. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell almost immediately announced that Scalia’s seat should be filled after “the American people” weigh in during the presidential election — Republicans always seem to forget that the American people have already weighed in twice by making Barack Obama president. This categorical rejection of any Obama nominee, no matter who, is unprecedented. Scalia’s seat was apparently sacred, and could only fairly be filled by a Republican appointee. McConnell does not seem to consider that the next president might also be a Democrat.

The change in the balance of the court was apparent in the first of two cases concerning reproductive health that were scheduled to be heard this month. (The second case, Zubik v. Burwell, will be argued on March 23.) At SCOTUSblog, Lyle Denniston analyzed the oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. It was always clear that the outcome would hinge on Justice Kennedy, and, before Scalia’s death, that in all likelihood the Texas law requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, and abortion clinics to meet ambulatory surgical clinic requirements, would be upheld. Continue reading

Courting Women

Sotomayor, Ginsburg, and Kagan: Sitting Supreme Court Justices

Sotomayor, Ginsburg, and Kagan: Sitting Supreme Court Justices

“… [T]he difference of having three women on the Supreme Court. I think that all the justices obviously are important in that court, but it really makes a difference to begin to have a court that more reflects the diversity of this country, and I think women who can really speak from a woman’s point of view, just how impactful these kind of laws that specifically target women and women’s access to health care, how impactful they are. And I was really grateful to have the women’s voices in the room.”

Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood president, March 2, 2016, commenting on that day’s oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt

Me, too, Cecile.

Courting women. Let’s snatch that phrase from the parlor in a Jane Austen novel and lob it into the Supreme Court chambers, making courting not the passive “pick me” word of yesteryear, but an assertive “empower me” word of today.

Power, judiciously applied, is what Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan demonstrated during oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. They formed a tag team of relentless logic, assertiveness, and deep understanding of the predicament of women in Texas needing timely, accessible abortion care — and not getting it. The court was probing two provisions of Texas HB2, the law that requires that (1) physicians performing abortions must have admitting privileges at a hospital near their clinics and (2) all abortions must be performed in ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs, mini-hospitals). (See SCOTUSblog “Round Up” and Roe v. Wade: Texas Then and Now for additional background on this important case.)

Justices explored the elements that create an unconstitutional “undue burden” for women seeking an abortion by questioning attorney Stephanie Toti, representing Whole Woman’s Health, and Solicitor General Scott Keller, representing Texas. Here are some highlights: Continue reading

Roe v. Wade: Texas Then and Now

“Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court: It’s an old joke, but when a man argues against two beautiful ladies like this, they are going to have the last word.”

Supreme Court, 1973

Supreme Court, 1973

Thus Jay Floyd, Texas assistant attorney general, opened his December 1971 oral argument in Roe v. Wade, as his adversary attorneys Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee sat nearby (no doubt dumbfounded) after Weddington had presented their argument for women’s abortion rights.

Wisely, the Texas reargument in 1972 opened with no attempt at humor. (When Roe was first argued, the Supreme Court consisted of only seven justices. Because the decision would be so historic, the Supreme Court decided to hear arguments a second time when all nine justices were in place the following year.) Then, on January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court decided that a woman’s right to an abortion was constitutionally protected and the 1854 Texas law at issue was struck down, along with abortion laws in 45 other states. (The Texas gentleman was right: The Texas ladies did have the last word.)

What will the Supreme Court bring us this year? “Don’t Mess with Texas” or “Don’t Mess with Women”?

So, as we approach the 43rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade this Friday, let’s mosey down memory lane. How did we get to that landmark decision, and where might we be going this year with a new Texas case testing abortion rights, Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole?

Throughout history, abortion has been a common practice. At the time of the adoption of the U.S. Constitution in 1787, abortion was legal in all states. Prior to the mid-1800s legal scholars were not proposing abortion laws, nor advocating “personhood” of an unborn child, nor asserting abortion control on medical safety or any other grounds. Continue reading

Illegal Procedure: How a 1974 Stadium Bill Put Reproductive Rights in the Sidelines

StadiumFans of the University of Arizona football team will arrive by the thousands at Arizona Stadium on September 3, the start of the fall football season, as the UA Wildcats face off against the UTSA Roadrunners, a team they defeated 26 to 23 in San Antonio last September. For fans, the stadium is a place where legends and losses are remembered. For reproductive rights advocates, it represents a devil’s bargain that took place more than 40 years ago and continues to compromise health care to this day.

In 1974, abortion rights were sacrificed to expand Arizona Stadium.

Arizona has long had a unique role in the abortion battle. In 1962, Sherri Finkbine, a Phoenix-area woman, entered the national spotlight after she found out the thalidomide she was taking as a sleep aid could cause severe fetal abnormalities. The early mortality rate among infants who were exposed to the drug was about 40 percent, in large part due to internal defects that commonly affected the kidneys, heart, digestive tract, and reproductive system.

Fearing how thalidomide would affect the development of her own fetus, Finkbine wanted to terminate her pregnancy in a state — and nation — that put legal barriers in the way of abortion. Already known to many as the star of a locally produced children’s show, she became a topic of national debate when she shared her story with a reporter from the Arizona Republic. She spoke to the reporter in the hopes of warning other mothers about thalidomide. An unintended consequence was that the publicity made it harder to quietly seek an abortion; providers who might have otherwise taken a legal risk for her couldn’t escape the attention that followed her. Continue reading

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • teddy bearImagine being 10 years old and pregnant as a result of rape by your stepfather. Imagine being forced to carry that pregnancy to term and give birth — all because your government says so. This is what’s happening to a child in Paraguay. It’d be remiss of me not to mention the fact that pregnancy can be extremely hazardous to this child’s health and can endanger her future fertility, and that girls under the age of 15 are FIVE times more likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth than those over age 20. Again, this child is 10. (Think Progress)
  • Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton says (correctly) that the religious zealots who don’t believe in abortion are infringing upon the rights of the rest of us. (Jezebel)
  • In contrast, two of the candidates from the Republican side, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, want support allowing employers to fire their employees based on birth control usage, terminating a pregnancy, and other private decisions that have have less than nothing to do with an employee’s job performance. (MSNBC)
  • Meanwhile, Oklahoma has become the fourth state to enact a 72-hour waiting period for women seeking abortions. Gov. Mary Fallin said, “This legislation will help women get the information they need before making a decision they can’t take back.” Um, don’t they already have the information??? That they’re pregnant and no longer wish to be???!! (WaPo)
  • A prolific chlamydia outbreak at a Texas high school that only teaches abstinence? Who would’ve ever thunk it? (Slate XX Factor)
  • Dr. Keith Ablow, a medical blowhard of the Republican persuasion who practically lives on Fox News, thinks men should be able to “veto” a woman’s abortion. Because why should the final decision on that belong to a woman? It’s not like pregnancy is in any way “risky” or could have life-long effects on her health or life in general. He hates that women have “all the control” … over what happens with their bodies and health and lives and all that petty nonsense. Boo friggity hoo. I’ll tell ya what, Ablow, the day an embryo can be transferred from a woman’s body to a man’s to carry to term, I’ll be on board with men having a say. Mmmkay? (Raw Story)
  • Dr. Ablow’s commentary was mostly in reference to the shenanigans of Nick Loeb, the ex-fiance of Modern Family actress Sofia Vergara, and the brouhaha over frozen embryos created during their relationship. Sofia is not interested in those embryos becoming people since she broke up with Nick, so Nick went on an epic faux pro-life shaming rant/tantrum that disgusted most people with any common sense or critical thinking skills. (RH Reality Check)
  • One writer illustrates why it’s important to be pro-abortion in addition to being pro-choice. (Salon)