Gov. Jan Brewer snubbed a request by Planned Parenthood Arizona to be a participant in this year’s Women’s Health Expo.
The one-day event at two locations in Maricopa County allowed different organizations to set up booths to provide information to those in attendance. Those who attended also were offered health screenings, educational workshops and massage therapy.
Nearly 60 organizations were allowed to hand out information by the Governor’s Office of Children, Youth and Families, which coordinated the event. But that did not include Planned Parenthood after the governor’s office rebuffed a personal request by Bryan Howard, the organization’s president, to be included.
Gubernatorial press aide Paul Senseman acknowledged the rejection.
“The organization was never invited to the event by Gov. Brewer,” he said in a written response to queries about the decision. Nor did he deny that Brewer’s anti-abortion stance played a role in that decision.
“It is certainly no secret that the governor has a pro-life track record and accomplishments dating back to her very first years as an elected official at the Arizona Legislature,” Senseman said. That stance remains: Brewer, in a candidate questionnaire in 2006, said she wants to outlaw abortion in all cases except to save the life of the mother.
The move comes less than a month after Brewer reversed a policy set by her predecessor and agreed to take federal grant dollars with a restriction that the only message they can fund is that sex before marriage is unacceptable.
And it comes as Brewer is set to become the first sitting state governor to attend a fundraising dinner Tuesday night for the Center for Arizona Policy, which lobbies at the Capitol against abortion, legalized gambling and gay marriage and in favor of state tax credits to help students attend private and parochial schools.
Howard said his organization has a lot to offer — especially at an event geared to maintaining the health of women.
He said Planned Parenthood wanted to put out information on the services it provides in testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, early detection of breast and cervical cancer and vaccinations for teen girls against human papilloma virus.
And Howard said there were not going to be brochures specifically related to abortion. But he said there would be more generic materials about the services Planned Parenthood provides. And that list, he said, includes elective abortion.
Senseman said Howard is making a bigger deal out of this than necessary.
“I understand that the event went off just fine last year without their participation,” he said.
Howard acknowledged that Planned Parenthood was not part of the 2008 event. But he said that was not from lack of interest.
“We were unaware there was a Health Expo last year,” he said.
Howard said the only way he learned about this one was through the Governor’s Commission on Women’s and Children’s Health, a panel on which he has served going back to the administration of Gov. Janet Napolitano. He said that group was involved in organizing this year’s event but not the one in 2008.
After getting a verbal rejection from the Governor’s Office of Children, Youth and Families, Howard followed up with a letter to Brewer seeking inclusion in the event. In that letter, he said locking out Planned Parenthood made no sense given the nearly 70,000 women who receive health care through its clinics and nearly 56,000 who got contraceptives.
He said Brewer never responded.