Arizona Birth Control Bill Banning Use For Contraception By Employers Back In The Spotlight

 @nadinedeninnon.deninno@ibtimes.com
on October 02 2012 1:50 PM

It’s been almost seven months since House Bill 2625 -- dubbed the “Arizona Birth Control Bill” because it lets employers deny insurance coverage for birth control pills if the employee is taking the drug to prevent pregnancy and not for health concerns -- was signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer.

Although the bill was opposed by women's groups and pro-choice activists, much of the furor has died down in the ensuing months. But thanks to some on the Internet, anger towards the legislation has resurfaced.

A post submitted yesterday on Reddit by user kesselvon pointed to the bill as a sign that Arizona is backward state:

“Arizona: We give the Ayatollah's a run for their money.” The post was quickly upvoted on the social news website to the main Politics page on Tuesday and fueled incendiary responses.

“I used to wonder why Arizona was so f--king insane. Then I went to Arizona and it all made sense. IT IS TOO F--KING HOT TO THINK!” one user wrote.

“what happened to their belief in a person's right to privacy? this is an obvious backlash against women's rights in particular. Would they even consider allowing employers to fire people for other medications? What if your employer doesn't believe in vaccinations? This is truly ridiculous,” another wrote.

Authored by Republican Majority Whip Debbie Lesko, the birth control measure states that women who want birth control pills to be covered by their insurance plans must submit a form affirming that they need the drug solely for medical reasons. In addition, the bill grants employers the right to deny insurance coverage for contraceptives, abortifacients, abortions or sterilization if it goes against the company's religious beliefs. And some activists argue that the bill allows employers to fire or choose not to hire women who use birth control to avoid pregancy, even if they pay for it themselves.

“Government should not be telling the organizations or mom-and-pop employers to do something against their moral beliefs,” Lesko told the State Press. "I believe we live in America. We don't live in the Soviet Union."

If a company refuses to provide coverage for birth control, Lesko says they are simply removing themselves from a system that they shouldn't be forced to participate in.

"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."

Lesko added that her bill was an attempt to push back at the Obama administration’s contraceptive mandate, which went into effect in August, offering birth control at no cost to employees in employer health care plans; under that plan the costs of coverage for women who work at religious nonprofits would be borne by the insurance companies.

With the elections approaching, some groups, like Voto Latino, are invoking the bill to highlight the importance of electing people who believe in protecting women's contraception rights. Voto Latino was co-founded in 2004 by actress Rosario Dawson, best known for her roles in “Sin City” and “Seven Pounds.” The group's mandate is to engage "young Latino voters,” many of whom don't turn out.

Voto Latino has met resistance from some Catholic organizations. The Cardinal Newman Society said Dawson's Voto Latino campaign at St. John’s University in New York offered up views that were “antithetical to church teaching” and "religious freedom.”

The post from Voto Latino that enraged the Newman Society was published before the Arizona bill passed and was entitled “Still No Love for La Mujer [the woman].” It read, in part:

“You knew when states like Idaho, Texas, and Virginia, decide to do their part to continue the War on Women, the most hateful state in the union, Arizona, isn’t far behind.  I’m throwing a flying chancla at State Rep. Debbie Lesko and to the Arizona legislators who pass legislation to 'protect' religious freedom at the expense of women’s privacy rights. Rep. Lesko is the lead sponsor of HB 2625, which would let any employer deny health insurance coverage for birth control if the employer has a religious objection to the use of birth control. Essentially, women could be required to reveal their medical information to their employer. Who in their right mind could possibly think HB 2625 is good legislation? Of course this bill already passed the House and is now being considered in the State Senate. The most ridiculous aspect of this whole situation is that Rep. Lesko herself has no moral objections to contraceptives. She doesn’t believe that the government should be telling employers what type of health insurance they should offer but yet, she believes employers should tell employees what kind of birth control they should be on.”

St. John's defended Dawson by saying that Voto Latino was primarily focused on encouraging Latinos to vote on National Voter Registration Day and had no ulterior motive.

Dawson supported this point of view in a statement made to Global Grind. “It’s wonderful to march, and it’s wonderful to come together and yell and scream about the issues that we care about, but if we’re not occupying the voting booths, it’s not going to translate,” she said. “How many of these marches and these things that you’re a part of you don’t see in the news later, but what you do see is how many people voted. And if you don’t vote, then you’re not a part that of that history.”

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