Interview: Jodi Liggett, Vice President of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood Arizona

This post is going to talk a little about politics since the end of the election is finally near. Aside from the fact this is the first time a woman is running for President as a party nominee, Hillary Clinton’s opponent Donald Trump has managed to make this election seem more like a reality television series. His behavior paints a picture comparable to one of a narcissist. Trump’s potential narcissism combined with his innumerable reckless comments has a number of liberals and even some conservatives are scared for the future of our country.

Reproductive rights are high on my list of political concerns. The candidates have discussed this long-standing political hot topic and Jodi Liggett, Vice President of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood Arizona, is here to discuss this with the blog. The following interview with Liggett touches on the Presidential election, Arizona state elections, sex education, gun control and reproductive rights.

(NfaF)  Hillary Clinton supports Planned Parenthood and is an advocate for reproductive rights; what are some other reasons Planned Parenthood stands behind Clinton? 

(JL) Planned Parenthood has been standing up for women and their families for a century.  Margaret Sanger founded our organization so that women could take control of their childbearing and their lives. Yes, we are a healthcare organization, but at our core- we are about empowerment: for women, young people, people of color, LGBTQ folks, everyone who has been marginalized or made vulnerable.  Planned Parenthood is about providing people information and care so that they can take control of their lives.  Similarly, Hillary Clinton has worked her entire adult life on behalf of women and children.  As she outlined so eloquently in the third presidential debate:

She was at the Children’s Defense Fund in the 1970s, battling discrimination against African-American students.  She worked for school reform in Arkansas in the 80s. In the 1990s, she went to Beijing, and famously said “women’s rights are human rights.” And, let’s not forget, she was in the situation room, when the raid that brought Osama bin Laden to justice occurred.  Hillary Clinton is a champion for reproductive rights, yes.  She will protect those rights through her policies and court appointments.  But it is really her broader human rights advocacy and commitment to social justice for all people that compelled Planned Parenthood Action Fund to endorse her in this election.  We are thrilled to be witnesses to our nation’s historic moment: electing our first woman president!

(NfaF)  In the event Donald Trump won this presidential election, what future do you see for Planned Parenthood and the people who seeking care at the clinics? 

(JL)  The world Donald Trump inhabits is not friendly to women, to say the least.  His many public statements and personal conduct toward women are abhorrent.  If he were to take office we would have a very tough battle on our hands, starting with the Supreme Court.  The next president will make as many as three appointments to the Supreme Court- more than enough to ensure a majority.  Unfortunately, Mr. Trump and the Republican party have made abortion a litmus test for judicial appointees and it seems certain that he would appoint justices inclined to overturn Roe vs. Wade if presented the opportunity.  This could prove catastrophic to our country and to women’s health and well-being.  We know from painful experience that if abortion is outlawed, it does not stop—it merely goes underground.  We have seen this most recently in Texas, as clinics were regulated almost out of existence.  Sadly, women in Texas became so desperate that they crossed the border into Mexico for illicit and unsafe abortion procedures, or ordered abortion medication off the internet and attempted to use it without medical supervision.  As many as 240,000 Texas women turned to these dangerous means to end their pregnancies, according to a study at the University of Texas at Austin.  We may never know how many illnesses or even deaths resulted from these dangerous attempts to manage unplanned pregnancies.  But lack of access to abortion is only the beginning. There are also the potential criminal consequences for these desperate women if Trump is elected. Mr. Trump has said that there “must be some kind of punishment” for women who seek illegal abortion.  That’s astonishing.  And abortion rights are just the tip of the iceberg.  It has been a Republican priority for years to “defund”  Planned Parenthood.  Trump has gone along with, and even encouraged this sentiment.  If Planned Parenthood were shut out of Medicaid or Title X funding, tens of thousands of poor and working class women would have no health provider, no cancer screening, no STD testing and treatment, and no meaningful access to contraception and family planning services.  How ironic that the consequence of less family planning will be MORE abortions.  As Trump would say: “SAD!”

(NfaF)  On the topic of Trump, I would like to touch on his treatment of women. Throughout his campaign, Trump has quite successfully painted himself to be a misogynist by means of his comments about women and absent remorse. How do you feel about unapologetic degradation of women from the Republican Presidential Nominee? 

(JL)  I personally am disgusted at Trump’s misogyny and mistreatment of women.  From outright physical assault to derogatory, insulting comments including ageist and body-shaming remarks, it’s almost endless.  Candidly, I don’t know who is worse- Trump or his many surrogates who defend and enable his appalling behavior.  So many Republicans have attempted to distance themselves from his actions, but they are responsible for this Frankenstein monster.  And the absolute worst part of the whole debacle is Trump and others denigrating Trump’s victims—labeling them as opportunists or even denying the veracity of the 16 women who have come forward. Trump has even threatened to sue these victims!  My thoughts on this are best summed up in a recent Facebook post:

‘HEADLINE: “All of these liars will be sued…”- Donald Trump
To Mr. Trump, his enablers, and his apologists: Beware. You have ignited the righteous anger of millions of sex abuse victims of every age, race, gender, and identity. All of us have been denied, marginalized, and especially… branded as LIARS by people like you. If there is any grace or justice left in this world you will surely reap what you have sown on election day. We will not be silent, we will not be abused, yet again. Especially not by you.’

(NfaF)  What about state elections, is there anything in particular you hope to see in the outcome of Arizona elections?

(JL)  I’m so glad someone is asking this question! So much focus has been given to the Presidential race that very important “down-ticket” races are almost being ignored.  There are many potentially positive outcomes that may occur on election day here.  Voters will decide whether to return Senator McCain and Congresswoman McSally to DC.  Neither is pro-choice.  At Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, we know that voters in Maricopa County were outraged during the Presidential Primary elections, when polling locations were reduced from over 200 to just 60 sites, resulting in confusion and long lines—many voters waiting 5 hours or more to vote.  Many turned away, even more giving up due to exhaustion or work obligations.  We have an opportunity to send a message that disenfranchisement will not be tolerated- the County Recorder, Helen Purcell has a substantial challenger in Democrat Adrian Fontes.  Also in Maricopa County, but of national note- Sheriff Joe Arpio faces the first serious challenge he’s had in years.  Polling has his opponent Paul Penzone leading by double digits and Arpio looks to be charged criminally with contempt of court.  Voters here seem to be tired of his attention-seeking antics and legal misconduct costing taxpayers millions of dollars.  So, despite is national notoriety, he may lose his election.  Voters statewide will also get a chance to send a message to Dark Money interests in the Corporation Commission race—will APS prevail or will voters stand with challengers?  Most importantly, citizens have the chance to literally change the face of our state legislature.  Poll after poll (Morrison Institute, Center for the Future of AZ, others) have shown that our legislature as a whole is far more socially and fiscally conservative than the general electorate.  There are 3-5 Senate races where Democrats pose a serious challenge to incumbent Republicans.  There is a legitimate chance that voters will flip 3 or 4 seats in the State Senate, which would reduce the size of the Republican majority or even split the membership 50/50.  This would have dramatic impacts for everything from women’s health policy to the overall state budget- that’s why Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona supports our endorsed candidates through our electoral work.  With a split senate, “bad” bills can be stopped and all members are forced to negotiate and compromise.  This empowers moderates and we would see far fewer bills like 1070 (anti-immigrant) and 1062 (anti-marriage equality).  Finally- Arizona is very fortunate to also be able to legislate directly from the ballot box via voter initiative.  Two initiatives are on the November 8, 2016, ballot: Proposition 205, which would legalize recreational marijuana, and Proposition 206, which would increase the minimum wage to $12 and guarantee paid sick time.  Planned Parenthood in particular supports increasing the minimum wage- which will especially benefit women struggling to raise children on their own.  See our endorsed candidates at

(NfaF)  Over the years Planned Parenthood offices, clinics, and doctors have been target to a number of violent attacks from religious or anti-abortion extremists. I’m curious what your opinion is on gun control? 

(JL)  Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers have indeed been the target of violent attacks for decades.  During the height of the video hoax last year (where anti-abortion activists filmed and selectively edited Planned Parenthood employees speaking so that they appeared to be discussing illegal activity—all thoroughly debunked by, Washington Post, New York Times and others) a deranged individual attacked our Colorado Springs clinic with a gun. A police officer and two civilians were killed; five police officers and four civilians were injured during the standoff that lasted five hours.  The attacker has subsequently clearly been shown to be seriously mentally ill.  Neither Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona or Planned Parenthood Action Fund have a position on gun control, but I personally support background checks which would keep guns out of the hands of criminals and folks like the attacker Richard Dear, who are clearly suffering from serious mental illness.  Outside of the headlines of dramatic cases like this, the public knows little about what our clinic and administrative personnel deal with on a daily basis—running the “gauntlet” of protesters, never knowing if one will become violent. Regular vandalism of our facilities which can delay or disrupt care to our patients.  And in the internet age, where it is so easy to determine people’s identity and professional affiliations, we employees often experience threats to our lives or safety from unhinged pro-life zealots.  It’s an interesting contrast—personally, I have never been more convinced of the need for sensible gun control.  AND…on days when I get a nasty or threatening letter or phone call I must admit sometimes I wish I had a weapon to protect myself on the long, dark walk to my car at the end of the day.

(NfaF)  Discussion of Planned Parenthood has the tendency to focus on abortion even though it accounts for less than 10% of services the clinics provide. I feel it is important to talk about the other 90% of services Planned Parenthood provides, preventative health care services. Comprehensive sex education is extremely important to me and I’m curious if Planned Parenthood is concerned with the current sex education curriculum in public schools? Also, what is your stance on abstinence-only education? 

(JL)  We agree completely! Planned Parenthood spends well over 90 percent of its time and effort on prevention- things that directly impact the need for abortion.  Medically accurate sex education and ensuring wide access to contraception are two of the most important things we, as a society, can do to reduce unplanned pregnancies and abortions.  Sex ed, in particular, is so important—even beyond pregnancy prevention.  Good quality sex ed helps kids stay safe and understand healthy boundaries with peers and adults, it helps youth navigate consent, it helps individuals of all ages recognize and address bullying behavior.  It assists young people in forming healthy, respectful relationships and helps them understand what to do when a partner becomes abusive.  Critically, comprehensive and inclusive sex ed also addresses differences with dignity and understanding to that all kids, including LGBTQ kids and their families, hear themselves and the reality of their lives reflected in the curricula.  Currently there is no requirement for any kind of sex ed to be taught in AZ schools.  What results is a patchwork- some schools have good programs, but even more don’t do anything due to lack of funding or fear of controversy.  Some schools embrace an “abstinence only” approach which is WORSE than doing nothing.  These programs are not effective in keeping young people safe from STDs and unplanned pregnancies, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, which just this year formally opposed abstinence only programs. Worse, many of the curricula reinforce outdated and sexist stereotypes which hold girls responsible for boys’ behavior and stress that virginity for girls is the only legitimate goal.  For instance, some programs compare sexually experienced individuals to a used piece of gum or a piece of tape that has “lost its ability to bond”.  These programs send horrible messages to all youth about sex and sexuality and are particularly harmful to victims of rape, incest, or other sexual abuse.  Indeed, Elizabeth Smart- the young Mormon girl who was kidnapped and held for over six months has been outspoken in her condemnation of abstinence education, despite her deep faith and socially conservative background.  Ms Smart has publicly shared the painful reality that the abstinence education she received contributed directly to her extended captivity.  Once she was raped, she had no value—according to the education she received—therefore escape was pointless and she became resigned to her fate.  Smart has stated publicly that if she hadn’t received abstinence education she wouldn’t have felt worthless after her rape(s) and may have been able to leave her captors and seek help.  LGBTQ students also suffer when curricula don’t address the realities of their lives, or worse, don’t even acknowledge that they exist.  AZ law contributes to this dynamic, with its “No Promo Homo” provision, ARS 15-617 which forbids sex educators from “promoting a homosexual lifestyle” (whatever that means).  Current AZ law needs a total overhaul, starting with the repeal of 15-617, and requiring that every child receive age appropriate, medically accurate and inclusive education from K-12.  Planned Parenthood is working directly with school districts to accomplish this and will propose legislation in the next session to mandate sex ed state wide.


As Vice President of Public Affairs for Planned Parenthood Arizona Jodi Liggett oversees reproductive health and rights policy objectives, and manages the work of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, the separate organization that educates voters and candidates for public office.

With a background in law, policy, public relations, human services and nonprofit management, Liggett brings an unusual breadth of experience and knowledge to her work. She most recently served as senior policy advisor for City of Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton in the human services areas of poverty, health care, education and domestic violence. She was instrumental in two of Phoenix’s most significant achievements: housing every chronically homeless veteran- the first city in the nation to do so, and the passage of Phoenix’s equal pay ordinance. She has a continuing role in assuring equal pay for women, as chair of the Phoenix Women’s Commission.

Liggett held the position of director of policy, programs and research, and ultimately CEO, at the Arizona Foundation for Women. While there, she published two Status of Arizona Women reports, and conceived and launched the SHE Counts! Initiative. SHE stands for Safety, Health, Economic empowerment, and became the framework for all the Foundation’s continuing work; she is now the Chair of the Board of the Arizona Foundation for Women. In government Liggett served as Senior Policy Advisor to Arizona Governor Jane Dee Hull and as legislative staff in the Arizona House.

Jodi’s breadth and depth of experience and subject matter expertise have led to numerous contributions to media and scholarly research in the areas of poverty, violence against women, homelessness, women’s health, women’s political participation and voting rights.

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