2 resign from women’s health panel

by Matthew Benson – Aug. 2, 2009 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic

Two members of the Governor’s Commission on Women’s and Children’s Health have resigned in protest of actions by Republican Gov. Jan Brewer that they say have undermined the panel’s mission and endangered public health.

Stepping down were Planned Parenthood Arizona Chairwoman Dr. Candace Lew and President and CEO Bryan Howard. In a letter to Brewer last week, the two accused her of allowing political considerations to guide her administration’s health policy, especially when it comes to family planning

and sex education.

“We cannot continue – through our participation in the commission – to endorse the numerous policies your administration has taken that endanger women’s health,” Lew and Howard wrote Brewer. “Since you’ve taken office it has become clear that political priorities outweigh women’s health priorities.”

Brewer’s office disputed the charge that she has politicized the state’s response to health issues.

“The governor – both in actions and what she has stated in her goals – has demonstrated a commitment to women’s health and state services that can continue to provide for those women who are at risk,” Brewer spokesman Paul Senseman said.

Brewer took office in January following the resignation of Gov. Janet Napolitano. While it’s no surprise that the socially conservative Brewer has taken a different tack on abortion and related issues than her Democratic predecessor, Lew and Howard suggested that she has frozen out Planned Parenthood and refused repeated requests to meet since becoming governor.

Specifically, they cited Brewer’s signing into law of strict anti-abortion regulations this year, including the creation of a 24-hour waiting period on women seeking the procedure and the requirement that minors first receive written, notarized consent from a parent or guardian.

In addition, Lew and Howard noted Brewer’s decision to accept more than $1 million in federal grant funding for abstinence-only education in schools and said she has rescinded an agreement between the state Department of Health Services and Planned Parenthood to promote testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.

Senseman said that he did not have any knowledge of a broken agreement with regard to STD treatment and testing and added that the governor was “very pleased that the state of Arizona applied for and was granted $1 million from the Obama administration for abstinence funding.”

The 23-member Governor’s Commission was created under Republican former Gov. Jane Hull and is charged with improving the health of Arizona women and children while reducing health-care costs.

Republic reporter Amy B Wang contributed to this article.

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