Who can resist babies doing yoga coupled with multiple exclamation points?
As many of you know, maternal and child health has been my focus for nearly a year now, ever since my strong, adorable, and intelligent granddaughter Selah was born with gastroschisis. Her three months in the Nursery Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Tucson Medical Center (TMC) in 2018 gave me a new appreciation for the human and financial costs related to adverse birth outcomes and high tech medicine.
When it comes to maternal and child health, I strongly believe that the state of Arizona can and should do better regarding:
Increasing access to prenatal, perinatal and postpartum care.
Decreasing the rates of premature and low birthweight babies.
Reducing the number of unintended pregnancies and nonmarital births.
Reducing toxic stress in and increasing opportunities for families and children by tackling chronic, systemic poverty in Arizona– particularly among single parent households.
What is the state of maternal and child health in the state of Arizona? Well, it certainly could be better.
Arizona ranks in the 40s (out of 50 states) in many areas related to the health of Moms and their babies.
Too many Moms and babies are dying preventable deaths after childbirth. Too many babies are born prematurely, with low birth weight or with birth defects. Not surprisingly, access to first trimester prenatal care has decreased, while beginning prenatal care late or not having prenatal care has increased.
Although the Arizona Department of Health Services recently received a CDC grant to study maternal mortality, there is more work to be done to improve the lives of Moms and babies.
Arizona should be doing more to prevent premature and low brithweight babies, increase access to prenatal and post-partum care for women, and increase post secondary educational opportunities (particularly for young girls).
I will talk about the State of Maternal and Child Health in Arizona and lead a discussion about challenges and solutions at the Salt of the Earth Labor College on Saturday, September 21, 2019, beginning at 2 p.m. (Facebook event here. Blog for Arizona event here.) The College is located at 1902 E. Irene Vista, Tucson.
One of the prevailing messages from the grassroots in 2018 was: no more tax giveaways until the schools are fully funded. Republicans didn’t get that message. They also didn’t get the Invest In Ed message that we — the people– think the rich could pay more in taxes to help fund education.
The Republican budget cuts income taxes, TPT and fees by $386 million and leaves education and other needs underfunded (or unfunded).
We started the year with a $1 billion surplus to invest in the People’s To-Do List: education, infrastructure, healthcare and safety and security. The Republicans have added bits of money to these areas — just enough to make it look like they’re doing something— but the need is much greater.
Republicans are ignoring multiple crises that are brewing in our state including unnecessary maternal and child death; rock bottom education funding; crumbling roads, bridges and school buildings; lack affordable and low-income housing; the shortage of teachers, doctors and nurses; too many people living in poverty; lack of access to affordable healthcare… need I go on?
Across the nation today, men and women were protesting stringent anti-abortion bills that have passed in at least eight states recently. There was an impressive rally with close to 200 people at the Capitol today in Phoenix and even more in Tucson.
Alabama’s bill is the most recent and the most stringent. It is essentially an all out ban on abortion because it does not exclude women who have been raped or who have been the victims of incest. It also criminalizes doctors. They can be charged with a felony for conducting an abortion.
Six states including Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, and Ohio have passed heartbeat bills. This means that an abortion cannot be conducted after a heartbeat has been detected. This can be as early as 6 to 8 weeks. Often women don’t even know they’re pregnant by then. Utah and Arkansas ban abortions after the middle of the second trimester.
Some states, like Arizona, still have abortion bans that pre-date Roe v Wade on the books. If one of these 2019 right-wing bills gets to the Supreme Court and results in over-turning Roe, it is unclear what will happen, but Arizona’s law could go into effect.
I was in college at Ohio State, when Roe v Wade passed the Supreme Court. I remember what life was like for young women in the time before abortion was legal and when access to contraception was limited. Everybody was on the “Rhythm Method”, and everybody in the dorm knew if somebody was “late.” I knew at least a half a dozen women in the dorm who were driven to New York for abortions. I knew a guy who got three women pregnant and drove them all to New York City. (You’d think he could figure out that he was part of the problem!) When abortions became legalized in Detroit, my boyfriend and I gave his younger sister a ride to Detroit.
To get birth control pills, I had to take a 1.5 hour bus ride from campus to the Planned Parenthood Clinic in ghetto on the near East Side. The clinic was in a dingy storefront. The waiting room was filled primarily with African-American women and children who lived in the neighborhood nearby plus a handful of white college girls like me.
Although we had a short floor calendar on May 1, we had some rousing debates. The highlight was a two-hour debate on SB1085, association health plans. (Watch the action here, beginning at 19:32 min.)
The Republicans have had three bills this year to lower healthcare insurance costs by encouraging people to leave the healthcare marketplace. I agree that the Affordable Care Act is too expensive, particularly for sole proprietors (like my husband who was offered a silver ACA plan for more than $1000 per month just for him.) This is why I voted for direct care contracts. I believe those are a better deal for sole proprietors than association health plans.)
I get that costs are too high, but the association health plans are not the way to go. They could, indeed, lower costs for business owners, but they could be risky due to limited coverage. There are reasons why these plans will likely be cheaper. Remember the old adage “you get what you pay for”. If sole proprietor business owners want to take a risk with their own insurance and their own health, I have a mind to let them take their own risk. (Just don’t ask me to help you later with a Go Fund Me Request if it turns out I was right on limited coverage under cheap junk insurance plans.)
Where I object is when businesses are making these risky insurance decisions for their employees— just to save money.
Maternal and child health is in crisis in the state of Arizona. Too many infants die. Too many new
Maternal and child health is in crisis in the state of Arizona. Too many babies die. Too many new Moms die. Too many babies are born prematurely. Too many babies are born with birth defects. Too many pregnant women don’t get adequate prenatal care.
Some Arizona counties have been labeled maternal health deserts because of lack of medical care. Cochise, Graham, Gila, La Paz, Santa Cruz and Yuma are the worst off. Around 50% of the babies born in Arizona are born to unwed mothers (which makes them more likely to live in poverty with their Moms.) And around 50% of the live births are funded by AHCCCS (Arizona’s Medicaid program).
Arizona’s lack of attention to maternal and child health and our stingy social safety net policies have exacerbated the situation and cost the state lives and money. Each premature baby born under AHCCCS costs the state around $1 million. How many of these one-million-dollar babies are accidents due to lack of access to affordable birth control and the scarcity of women’s health clinics, particularly in rural Arizona? We should be funding women’s health and well baby clinics in rural Arizona and should be hiring community health workers to do outreach with pregnant women and new Moms. You can hire an army of community health workers for the cost of one or two premature babies.
When I ran for office in 2016, I said I wanted be your voice—the voice of the people—in the Arizona Legislature. And that is exactly what I did.
I used my voice, my votes, my amendments, and my bills to fight for the rights and wellbeing of workers, patients, teachers, students, women and the underserved.
Protecting your family…
I was a strong voice for public health and affordable access to care during the negotiations and eventual passage of both the Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act and dental therapy. I also co-sponsored a bill to allow Arizonans to buy-in to Medicaid (AHCCCS). This is a potentially cheaper option for folks who are struggling with the cost of health insurance. House Democrats will be proposing it again in 2019.
On budget night 2018, I proposed an amendment to appropriate $56 million in federal child care subsidies to fill the $80 million gap left after Republicans swept the funds during the Great Recession. Arizona House Republicans voted to leave those funds unspent; Arizona is the only state in the country that didn’t use those earmarked childcare funds. (I’ll try again in 2019.) I also backed a bill for tiered reimbursement for childcare subsidies. This bill, which was signed into law, and the $56 million in subsidies would go a long way to help Arizona families and children.
Protecting your rights…
Also on budget night, at around 4 a.m., I defended the rights of pregnant homeless women to have access to abortion and abortion referrals. I have seen young homeless women with infants on the streets of Tucson. The streets are no place for adults– let alone children and babies. Because we are a state that does very little to help women once their babies have been born, I believe we should expand access to contraception and all legal medical procedures and teach medically accurate sex education in the schools.
Two years in a row, I proposed ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in Arizona. Arizona women won’t have equal pay for equal work without passage of the ERA. Overall, women are paid roughly 78 cents on the dollar compared to men. Due to the intersectionality of race, class, ethnicity and gender, African-American women, Native American women and Latinas are paid far less than white men. Latinas make roughly 55 cents per hour for every $1 earned by a white man. Tucson’s population is 41% Latino. Just think of the economic impact to our city and our region if Latinas were paid fairly and if they were offered quality education for themselves and their children. It doesn’t do our community, our state or our country to force people to live in poverty and sickness.
In five days, voter registration closes for the August 28 primary on July 30.
In seven days, early voting begins for the August 28 primary on August 1.
In 34 days, it will be Primary Election day on August 28.
It’s time for voters to get serious about making up their minds on who to vote for. Many news outlets– like the Arizona Republic and the Tucson Weekly— are compiling voter guides. (The link to the Republic’s guide is below. The Weekly’s will be published soon.) The state’s main Voter Education Guide, which you will receive in the US mail soon, is already available online here.
In addition to voter guides, organizations, nonprofits, and unions have released candidate statements and endorsements (linked below).
For your consideration, I have compiled a list of my endorsements, ratings, awards and news clips– along with links to five organizations that have compiled candidate issue statements.
I am asking for your vote on or before the August 28, 2018 primary and again in the fall– on or before the November 6, 2018 general election.
I promised to be the voice of the people in the Arizona Legislature, and that’s exactly what I did. As a Progressive Democrat and a Clean Elections candidate, I am beholden to no one but you– the voters of Arizona. I accept no big-money donations from lobbyists, special interest groups or unions. Votes should decide our elections– not money.
In the 53rd Legislature, I voted my values and stood up for your rights and wellbeing. The People’s work is not done. We must turn the Arizona Legislature around. It’s time that elected officials stopped voting to give our tax money away and started voting to fund the People’s To-Do List: education, healthcare, infrastructure, and safety and security. I am proud to say that I voted against every tax giveaway that was proposed in two years. Do you want a representative who stands with teachers, students and families or one who stands with the developers? That is your choice in the LD9 primary.
Please check out the links and videos below. It has been an honor to serve you for the past two years in the Arizona House. Thank you for your support.
The Citizens Clean Elections Commission (CCEC) organizes and hosts debates for all elections in which at least one Clean Elections candidate is running. In Legislative District 9, three of the five people running for office are Clean candidates: Jim Love, Victoria Steele and me. The other two people who are running for house– Rep. Randy Friese and J.P. Martin– are running traditional.
Since early ballots for the August 28 primary election will be mailed on August 1, the CCEC has been hosting many debates in the past month. On July 19, the LD9 candidates had their debate. (The LD9 video link is here and the embedded video is below. To watch other CCEC debates go here.)
CCEC debates include some questions that are asked of all candidates and other questions that are asked of specific people. I have annotated the debate with time stamps– in case you want to focus on particular topics. Since there were several audience questions about guns in schools, the environment and prison reform, I have grouped those questions and answers.
People in suits chat in the halls, meet behind closed doors, debate on the floor, talk on camera, and vote to change our laws and our lives. News happens everyday at the Arizona Capitol, and on some days there is a perfect storm of debates, votes, protests, and intrigue.
To capture the spirit of the action in my own way, I have started recording daily one-minute video updates from the Arizona Legislature.
To date, I have posted 18 one-minute video updates on individual bills or hot topics of the day from the Capitol. These daily videos have been so popular on Facebook and Instagram, that I am cross-posting the entire collection on YouTube, so links can be more easily shared. Check out my YouTube page here. (You can subscribe to my YouTube channel and receive update notifications automatically.)
Stay tuned on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and this blog for more video updates through the interim and the election. Thanks for your support. If you live in my district and have not signed my petition, please do so here. Thanks!