The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6-2 Monday to endorse a controversial bill that would allow Arizona employers the right to deny health insurance coverage for contraceptives based on religious objections.
Arizona House Bill 2625, authored by Majority Whip Debbie Lesko, R-Glendale, would permit employers to ask their employees for proof of medical prescription if they seek contraceptives for non-reproductive purposes, such as hormone control or acne treatment.
“I believe we live in America. We don’t live in the Soviet Union,” Lesko said. “So, government should not be telling the organizations or mom and pop employers to do something against their moral beliefs.”
Lesko said this bill responds to a contraceptive mandate in the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed into law March 2010.
“My whole legislation is about our First Amendment rights and freedom of religion,” Lesko said. “All my bill does is that an employer can opt out of the mandate if they have any religious objections.”
Glendale resident Liza Love said the bill would impose on women’s rights to keep their medical records private.
Love spoke to the committee about her struggle with polycystic ovary syndrome and endometriosis, conditions requiring her to use birth control.
“I wouldn’t mind showing my employer my medical records,” Love said. “But there are 10 women behind me that would be ashamed to do so.”
Planned Parenthood Arizona President Bryan Howard said he opposes HB 2625 and any bill against the accessibility of women’s health care in Arizona.
“The bill is part of the assault on women’s health care across the country,” Howard said.
Howard said there haven’t been any complaints from insurance companies since 2002, when Arizona passed the Contraceptive Equity Law , a measure prohibiting religious employers from denying its employees contraceptives for non-contraceptive purposes.
“This is an attack on women’s health care and their ability to make health care decisions for themselves and their families according to their faith,” Howard said.
Father John Muir, a priest at the All Saints Catholic Newman Center on the Tempe campus, said the controversial issue is not about birth control, but religious freedom and the First Amendment.
“It’s not about birth control,” Muir said. “It’s about the right to live out your beliefs and principles without inference by the state.”
Political science sophomore Megan Riley said she supports making contraceptives accessible under all health care plans.
Riley said the employer doesn’t have the right to impose their religious beliefs on their employees.
“Taking away birth control is not a religious freedom,” Riley said. “It’s oppression.”
“Law shouldn’t require intruding on individuals' rights and moral beliefs,” McCarthy said.