A controversial bill that would give employers the right to deny women the right to birth control benefits is currently moving its way to a vote with the Arizona Senate.
House Bill 2625 is expected to expand the current religious exemption in Arizona’s contraceptive mandate to include all employers who have a religious objection to providing contraceptives in their health plans, allowing employers to impose their religious beliefs on to their employees, and more specifically, their female employees.
If the bill passes, if a woman wants the cost of her contraception covered, she would have to submit a claim to her employer, providing evidence of a medical condition that can be treated with birth control, which can include pills, shots, hormones or medication.
The bill would also allow Arizona employers to fire a woman upon finding out that she used birth control for the purpose of preventing pregnancy.
HB 2625 passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 12 in a 6-2 vote, with the bill’s sponsor speaking at the hearing.
Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Glendale, said, “This bill restores religious liberty to the State of Arizona. Basically, the bill says Arizona employers can opt out of the contraception mandate if they have a religious objection. I believe that we live in America. We don’t live in the Soviet Union, and so government shouldn’t be telling employers, Catholic organizations, or mom and pop organizations to do something that is against their moral beliefs.”
Speaking out against the bill during the March 12 hearing was Anjali Abraham, the public policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona.
“The ACLU strongly supports individual religious beliefs,” she said. “But this bill by amending the existing law to allow any employer to expand religious or non-religious beliefs to deny contraceptive coverage for moral reasons goes beyond a person’s right to practice their faith. It lets employers prioritize their beliefs over their employees. And in this case, over their female employees.”
Abraham said privacy issues are an issue with the bill. If passed, this bill would require a woman to discuss her personal medical issues with her employer.
Lastly, Abraham said this bill would also prevent a woman from getting contraception on her own for fear of being fired.
Liza Love, a mental health worker, also testified before a Senate committee to oppose the bill, saying she would be required to disclose that she needed contraceptives to treat endometriosis, which is excessive growth of the uterine lining.
The bill would require Love to discuss the medical issues in detail with her employer, who will then decide if the issues should be covered with contraceptives.
Also speaking out against the bill that has received national attention is Arizona Sen. John McCain, who appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” on Sunday.
During the interview, McCain said if the bill is passed, Gov. Jan Brewer should veto it.
“I am confident that the legislation will not reach the governor’s desk, and if it did, it would be vetoed,” he said. “It certainly doesn’t reflect, in my view, the majority view of the people of Arizona.”
Gov. Brewer has not taken a position on the bill.