The current law states that birth control is covered under health insurance plans for women in Arizona for contraceptive purposes as well as health concerns. However, the new birth control bill, House Bill 2625, states that women who want their birth control pill to be covered by their insurance plans must verify its purpose to be solely for medical reasons and not to prevent pregnancy. The bill would grant employers to deny female employees the right to be covered based on religious beliefs.
The new bill was passed by Arizona's House of Representatives in early March and was endorsed by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday with a 6-2 vote. According to Arizona House Bill 2625, employers can refuse coverage for birth control for contraceptive, abortifacient, abortion or sterilization purposes, forcing women to submit a claim to prove medical conditions which require treatment for birth control.
"Government should not be telling the organizations or mom-and-pop employers to do something against their moral beliefs," Republican Majority Whip Debbie Lesko, R-Glendale, who sponsors the bill, told the State Press. "I believe we live in America. We don't live in the Soviet Union."
The bill would force employees to show their employers their medical records and also grant employers the right to deny health insurance coverage, forcing women to pay full price for their prescriptions.
"My whole legislation is about our First Amendment rights and freedom of religion," Lesko told the State Press. "All my bill does is that an employer can opt out of the mandate if they have any religious objections."
Planned Parenthood Arizona president Bryan Howard said there hasn't been any complaints about the current law, the Contraceptive Equality Law which bans employers from denying birth control coverage based on religion, since it was passed in 2002. Current law reads, "A religious employer shall not discriminate against an employee who independently chooses to obtain insurance coverage or prescriptions for contraceptives from another source."
"The bill is part of the assault on women's health care across the country," Howard told the State Press. "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."
The American Civil Liberties Union has started a petition against Arizona House Bill 2625 saying it is discriminatory and must be abolished.
"This bill is about discrimination, plain and simple. It is about taking away a woman's access to basic health services. We know this bill isn't about religious freedom," the petition reads. "Real religious freedom gives everyone the right to make personal decisions, including whether and when to use birth control, based on our own beliefs. It doesn't give the boss at a non-religious business the right to impose his or her beliefs."
The bill created by Debbie Lesko comes as Republicans attempt to appeal the contraception mandate, which requires employers to cover contraceptive costs in insurance plans for employees, by the Obama administration.
Arizona House Bill 2625 has already passed in the house and Senate Judiciary Committee and will make its way to the full State Senate.