Monday, April 24, 2017

Month 4.8 of 48: Congressman O'Halleran talks about Planned Parenthood

Last Friday night I had the opportunity to be part of a small meeting with Congressman Tom O'Halleran (who represents CD-1 which includes Flagstaff).  I joined about a dozen members of Together We Will Northern Arizona to ask him the questions that most concern our group.  

Honestly, I am still processing our meeting.  For the purposes of this post, I will just share what was discussed regarding Planned Parenthood and the general ideas of Resistance and Persistence (and a little bit of "what the heck are we supposed to do now!").

We discussed our questions ahead of time and tried to divvy them up so we could be efficient in the hour we had been allotted.  A group member named Kara asked about Planned Parenthood and protecting access to reproductive healthcare.

In responding to Kara, Representative O'Halleran shared the following responses:
  • "Normal" stories about the services provided by Planned Parenthood are not being well-represented in the press.   
  • He said it needs to be amplified to Congress that every woman is entitled to access. 
  • During the health care debate, he did bring real stories to the floor.
  • There is a unified caucus that is defending funding for Planned Parenthood and he is a part of it.
  • In the budget battle, he is working hard to protect funding for PP.  DJT and his people want it out.  Moderates are listening, especially those up for re-election in 2018.  They are well aware that they have a fight on their hands and we have to keep up the pressure!


When asked what we can do to help, Rep O'Halleran said that they need more stories to share.  He said they could be sent to his office via email (see his website at https://ohalleran.house.gov).  They are looking for stories that highlight women accessing care through Planned Parenthood and what it has meant to them (emotional stories with some meat are best).  (See our Month 4 post for more detailed information on Planned Parenthood if you haven't read it yet).

Now I have to stop for a moment and mention that we fell in love with Mrs. Pat O'Halleran, Tom's wife.  He calls her "the boss" and she is extremely down-to-earth and passionate about many of the issues that we care about.  While I was listening to Tom's words, I was also watching Pat's body language and facial expressions. By the end of it, I realized that a lot of the trust that I felt in the Congressman was in large part because his wife was in the room being a part of the conversation.  I suspect that Pat is a secret weapon in the O'Halleran campaign!

We talked about Resistance and Persistence, and what those now-capitalized words have come to mean since Inauguration Day. We are really making things difficult for DJT and his cronies. There is absolutely no doubt that it is working.  The Congressman said that constituents have thanked him for stopping the repeal of the ACA. His response.... I did nothing. The PEOPLE put unmistakeable pressure on the Congress to the point that DJT could not get the votes. Again, the Resistance and Persistence is working.

"If you don't keep up with the persistence and resistance, nothing you have done in the last 4 months will matter," said Rep. O'Halleran.  This struck a nerve with me.  We've been working so hard, and some days I feel so tired...  but we cannot stop or let up.  Marathon, not a sprint.  Marathon, not a sprint. We need more runners in the race.

We have to get out the vote in 2018 and 2020.  It's likely the only way to stop the madness. We have opportunities in the House and Senate, but each race will be a battle. Rep O'Halleran is in a seat that will need defending. 

Ultimately to affect change, and protect the organizations that we highlight in 48months (like Planned Parenthood) we must resist, persist and vote.  We must care for our fellow humans and put our money and our time where our mouths are.  This is what we are trying to accomplish here.

Throughout our meeting, I was taking notes as quickly as I could on my phone.   Some snippets that I wrote:

Numbers matter.  
Let them know.  
Keep going.  
There is nothing greater than making sure the voice of the people is loud and heard. 
Keep up the pressure.  
Go after them.  

Ready to join the race?

-Cristy Zeller

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

4 of 48: Planned Parenthood


Deep breath, everyone. This month is a lot trickier than puppies and kitties. Planned Parenthood is one of the most, if not THE most, polarizing organizations in America. Almost everyone has an opinion, deeply rooted for some in morality and religion, for others in politics and human rights.  Wherever you stand, I hope you will keep reading. 

To say that the staff of Planned Parenthood are busy since election day is a vast understatement. It was too difficult to find a time for an in-person interview (most of the staff do not live in Flagstaff), so we exchanged some emails with Tayler Tucker, Planned Parenthood of Arizona’s Communication Specialist (with help from Desiree Perez, Annet Ruiter, and Helen Hemmer).  I thought I knew a lot about PP, however the statistics and stories that Tayler provided made me realize the wide and varied scope of the services that PP provides. 

What is at stake under this administration?  A whole hell of a lot. Essentially, we have an administration that has set their sights on defunding Planned Parenthood.  Even though the Affordable Care Act remains intact (for now), a large fear is that the attacks will come via the federal budget process. There are proposed increases in defense spending, and across the board cuts to social welfare programs. The administration in general is against reproductive health care and the well-being of low income people, and appears to be heartless and generally dead inside. Then we have the whole issue of an anti-choice SCOTUS nominee. With a shift in the Court’s ideology, we may see a quick erosion of Roe v Wade. Basically, our legislators at the Federal and State levels are emboldened by the DJT administration.  An example from just this week in our lovely home state?  Governor Doug Ducey signed what is being called one of the strictest abortion laws in the country (google SB1367… it’s a doozy, likely unconstitutional, and every caregiver I know is appalled by it).

Ultimately Planned Parenthood has been around for 100 years, and they have an army of people behind them ready to fight for their place in our society. The Planned Parenthood website is bursting with facts and personal stories of why this organization is so imperative. There are stories of clinicians that detect early cancer and save lives, young women who receive sex education and resources when they have nowhere else to turn, and affordable services provided to women who face all types of barriers. 

In what other job, as you get out of your car and walk into the office, on any given day, do you face the potential for visceral hatred, obscenity, and the threat of possible violence from protestors on the sidewalk? Tayler tells us, in spite of it all, that PP employees feel supported. They know that they are not alone, and that many stand in solidarity with them.  She writes, “It’s tough but we are tougher. Akin to any rights and justice movement - we cherish the victories, honor the people who laid the groundwork before us, and are energized knowing the fight ahead is too pressing to back away from. History shows that in the end the march toward progress wins.”


HOW CAN YOU PARTICIPATE?

CASH:  Direct donations are always best so that most of your donation directly reaches the programs and services you want to support. Monthly donations are appreciated. Contributions to the political organization are much needed right now – they can be made here: (and are not tax deductible and may be used for political purposes, such as supporting and opposing candidates).  Donations to healthcare and education programs can be made here (these are tax deductible).  

ACTION: Ohmygoodness there are hundreds of things you can do.  Here are just a few:

  • Attend fundraisers and town halls! The N. Arizona dinner is this week (and sold out, bursting at the seams) but get on the mailing lists and websites so you don’t miss out on future events!  
  • Call your Senator, like immediately, and oppose Gorsuch (extremely time-sensitive) istandwithpp.org/call
  • Then, go ahead and add all of your elected representatives (Federal and State) to your phone and get in the habit of calling them. Don’t sit on the sidelines! Become an activist. If you live in Flagstaff visit twwwnaz.org for weekly action items and events. Indivisibleguide.com is a primer on activism that all budding resisters, persisters, and snowflakes should read.
  • Be an Advocate. Join a core group of supporters who pledge to give their time to support PP.  bit.ly/ppazadvocate
  • Make your next health care appointment at your PP Clinic PlannedParenthood.org/health-center/AZ
  • Like the PP Facebook pages (local and national) and follow them on Twitter. Use the #IStandwithPP to post your support on social media
  • Write letters to the editors and op-eds to local media. They need people to share personal stories to raise awareness of how policies affect communities.  If you live in Flagstaff, you can submit to the Arizona Daily Sun at https://azdailysun.com/forms/online_services/letter/ (250 word limit)

FINALLY… SOME MYTHBUSTERS:

Keeping in mind that you probably won’t change a hard-core, anti-choice individual’s mind, I do find these facts useful to keep in my back pocket as I talk about my support of Planned Parenthood in the coming days, weeks, and months.

*The majority of Planned Parenthood’s care is preventive (3% nationally is abortion services) and we are proud to offer safe and legal abortion care.
*Planned Parenthood primarily provides birth control and sex education which means the majority of the work we do statistically has helped reduce unintended pregnancy. Guttmacher has  published studies about how access to highly effective contraception like IUDs and implants is the driving force in the lowering of both unintended pregnancy and abortion rates.
*7 out of 10 Americans are in favor of Roe v. Wade (we know that abortion doesn’t stop if it’s legal or not, it just becomes unsafe. Texas is a prime example of what happens to people when abortion access is reduced and also if PP health centers are defunded or close).
*60% of Arizonans stand with Planned Parenthood.
* Since 1976’s adoption of the Hyde Amendment, tax payer dollars do not fund abortion except in extremely rare cases of rape, incest, or threat of life to the mother. Therefore, “defunding” is a misnomer. What politicians are actually aiming to do is block Medicaid patients from accessing  Planned Parenthood and our services even though we are their provider of choice.
*The idea that other providers could absorb Planned Parenthood’s patients has been resoundingly dismissed by experts.  In fact, Dr. Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association, called the idea “ludicrous."
*At the end of the day, Planned Parenthood provides health care and information. The more they are able to give people the resources to decide if, when, and how, they have their families, we will all be stronger for it. Planned Parenthood has done more over the past 100 years to diminish situations like unplanned pregnancies than any picketer, religious leader, or politician.

The Flagstaff health center provides:
  • Annual well woman exams
  • Birth control consultation and supplies
  • STD testing, treatment and vaccines
  • HIV testing
  • Emergency contraception
  • Abortion by pill
  • Pregnancy testing
  • Sexual health patient consultation

Again… for massive amounts of information please visit www.plannedparenthood.org

In closing, it’s hard to believe we are only starting month four of this administration. I'm still waiting for Olivia Pope to show up in one of her amazing white pantsuits and fix this mess. In the meantime, I keep telling myself it's a marathon not a sprint.  Lots of deep breaths, mass quantities of wine… these are the things that keep us sane, along with the knowledge that we are in fact, in this together.

-Cristy