This Tucson woman doesn’t trust the AZ GOP to protect access to contraceptives

This Tucson woman doesn’t trust the AZ GOP to protect access to contraceptives

Photo by Shutterstock

By Robert Gundran

June 18, 2024

“I have no faith that [Republicans] even understand why women use birth control beyond pregnancy prevention.” -Delaney Heileman

 

A Tucson woman with endometriosis doesn’t trust state or national Republicans to protect necessary contraceptives like birth control.

Delaney Heileman uses birth control to treat her endometriosis. Endometriosis is a disorder where tissue grows outside the uterus. It can cause extreme pain, excessive bleeding, and even infertility.

Medical studies show at least 11% of women in the world have endometriosis.

“I’ve had this condition since I was diagnosed at 14,” Heileman said. “Birth control has been something that has not just been a tool for preventing pregnancy. It has also enabled me to live my life as a normal human.”

Heileman isn’t the only one finding birth control useful. Nine out of 10 families in the US use birth control for family planning. Studies have even shown that providing free birth control to women could reduce abortion rates by up to 78%, and when given access to contraception, teen abortion rates dropped by about 75%.

This Tucson woman doesn’t trust the AZ GOP to protect access to contraceptives

Photo courtesy of Delaney Heileman.

According to national polling in 2022, 74% of women voters said protecting access to contraception was in their top 10 policy priorities for Congress.

Yet Republican lawmakers and judges, along with conservative activists across the US, have recently made moves to either limit contraceptives or block legal protections for access to contraceptives.

For example, in Missouri, Republican lawmakers blocked a bill that would have increased access to birth control pills. In Louisiana, Oklahoma, Alabama, Wisconsin, and Virginia, bills to protect access to contraceptives were shelved by Republican governors or legislative majorities. And in Idaho, Arkansas, and Michigan, legislation has been proposed to restrict or outlaw contraception.

The same thing is happening in Arizona.

Who’s controlling access to birth control in Arizona?

Earlier this year, Democratic Rep. Stephanie Stahl-Hamilton, who represents parts of Pima, Santa Cruz, and Cochise counties, introduced the Right to Contraception Act in the Arizona House. The bill would have given every Arizonan a right to obtain and use contraceptives. It would also have prevented future legislation from restricting access to birth control or Plan B, among other forms of contraception.

Because Republicans control the Arizona House of Representatives with a two-member majority (31 Republicans—29 Democrats), and again in the Arizona Senate (16 Republicans–14 Democrats, it’s the GOP who decides if bills get assigned to committee, if those bills get hearings in committee, and if those bills get voted on at all.

The Right to Contraception Act did not get a hearing, nor did it get a vote, in Arizona.

In March, Republican Sen. Sonny Borrelli summed it up in his response to a question about whether he would support or oppose future efforts to restrict access to contraceptives:

“Like I said, Bayer Company invented aspirin. Put it between your knees,” Borrelli said.

This Tucson woman doesn’t trust the AZ GOP to protect access to contraceptives

State Senator Sonny Borrelli speaking on the floor of the Arizona State Senate at the Arizona State Capitol building in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

“I think it’s none of their business what women do with their bodies, and it’s ridiculous for them to attack birth control in that way,” Heileman said.

“It shows a complete misunderstanding of the wide range of reasons birth control is used,” she added.

Heileman said one of the biggest reasons she cares about issues like reproductive rights is that lawmakers speak about things like abortion or contraceptives, but don’t engage in the conversation from a medical perspective.

“They’re just saying [women] wouldn’t need [birth control] if they weren’t promiscuous,” Heileman said.

Heileman said Republicans who try to restrict access to contraceptives due to personal views on sexual health are showing their ignorance. Contraceptives don’t just reduce the chance of pregnancy—they treat a wide variety of medical conditions, and studies show they can reduce the risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer.

“I don’t want to make a false hierarchy,” Heileman said. “I think it’s just something that gets overlooked, and I don’t think that any reason that you access birth control is wrong or better. Everybody needs it for a variety of reasons.”

Will courts protect access to contraceptives?

When the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, the conservative justices who wrote the decision used wording that could put contraceptives on the chopping block in the near future.

Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965 was a US Supreme Court decision that established the right for married couples to buy and use contraceptives. That decision was the basis for all couples to get contraceptives shortly after.

However, conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that overturning Roe set a new precedent—one that would allow the Court to overturn other decisions, including Griswold.

“In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell. Because any substantive due process decision is ‘demonstrably erroneous,’ we have a duty to ‘correct the error’ established in those precedents,” Thomas wrote.

The three liberal members of the Court sent a warning in their 2022 disagreement with the decision to overturn Roe, noting that the conservative majority on the Court is primed to strike down birth control if it gets the chance:

“And no one should be confident that this majority is done with its work…. Most obviously, the right to terminate a pregnancy arose straight out of the right to purchase and use contraception…. The majority could write just as long an opinion showing, for example, that until the mid-20th century, “there was no support in American law for a constitutional right to obtain [contraceptives].”

Power currently rests in the states

“I think that a lot of people feel really distraught and unmotivated this election cycle, and I think when I feel that way, the thing that brings me back to ‘Okay, I’m going to vote for Biden,’ does have to do with reproductive rights,” Heileman said.

While the president does influence protections over Americans’ rights to health care, power at the executive level is limited by what Congress is willing to pass. And in early June, Republicans in Congress blocked passage of a bill to protect access to birth control.

That means it’s up to state lawmakers to take action on what’s important to their constituents. Arizona’s Republicans turned their backs on protecting contraceptives once already this year. Voters, however, will have two more chances to make their priorities clear in the coming months: The statewide primary in Arizona is on July 30. The general election is on Nov. 5. You can register to vote or update your registration here.

Author

  • Robert Gundran

    Robert Gundran grew up in the Southwest, spending equal time in the Valley and Southern California throughout his life. He graduated from Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism in 2018 and wrote for The Arizona Republic and The Orange County Register.

CATEGORIES: HEALTHCARE
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