Contraception controversy comes to Arizona

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- The contraception controversy has made its way to the Valley. Arizona lawmakers on Monday considered a bill that would allow employers to deny women coverage for contraception.

This bill has already made it through the House side and now is advancing on the Senate side. Depending on if it becomes law, it could have a huge effect on women’s health care. Women on all sides of the issue have concerns varying from women’s rights to religious rights to a person’s right to privacy.

“I personally don’t have a moral objection to contraceptives but I respect the people that do,” said Rep. Debbie Lesko (R, District 9), who introduced House Bill 2625. “House Bill 2625 allows Arizona employers to opt out of the contraceptive mandate if they have a religious or moral objection"

Arizona already has a law that allows religious employers to deny contraception coverage for religious reasons, but HB 2625 would expand that right to all businesses. That has the American Civil Liberties Union concerned.

“As strongly as the ACLU has protected people’s rights to their religious beliefs, express those beliefs and practice those beliefs, we feel the bill goes beyond guaranteeing protections for religious liberties and into allowing an employer to prioritize his religious beliefs over the beliefs, needs, interests of his employees particularly his female employees,” said Anjali Abraham, the public policy director for ACLU Arizona.

The ACLU worries that this bill would restrict women’s access to basic health care.

“A lot of women require contraception for a variety of serious conditions things like endometriosis, ovarian cysts, conditions that can be very dangerous,” Abraham said.

Lesko says employers can make exceptions.

“Women could still get contraceptives for other uses," she said.

But the ACLU worries that would violate a person’s right to privacy.

“She has to tell employer why she uses contraception; she would have to say, 'I have endometriosis and use this for treatment.' That’s typically a private medical issue,” Abraham said.

Senate and House attorneys have found no such violation of privacy.

“We live in America and government shouldn’t force mom-and-pop employers to do something against their moral beliefs,” Lesko said.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has now voted and passed the bill. The Senate as a whole will still need to vote on the bill before it goes back to the House. If passed, it will go to the governor for her signature.