"Religious Freedom" From Contraception Bill Changed; ACLU Still Not Remotely Pleased

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No, because Jesus said so.
Amid heavy dissent from the public over Arizona's bill allowing employers to drop coverage for contraception in their health care plans if they have "religious objections," House Bill 2625 was voted down by the Senate late last month.

Thanks to those gems of procedure in the Arizona Legislature, Senators moved to reconsider the bill, in which a major overhaul of the bill's language was promised.

If you ask Arizona's branch of the ACLU, those big changes didn't happen, and the bill's now a couple steps away from Governor Jan Brewer's desk.

"For ten years, the law has allowed Arizona's women and families to rely on contraception coverage in their health care plans," Arizona ACLU executive director Alessandra Soler Meetze says. "And actual religious employers have always been able to opt out of coverage if their religious beliefs called on them to do so. HB 2625 represents a dramatic change to the law and basically allows any employer to drop coverage for vital health care needs."

Judging from what Anjali Abraham, the public policy director for the ACLU of Arizona, told New Times last month, and what her ACLU colleagues are saying today, legislators may have changed the language, but they didn't change the problems the ACLU pointed out.

Two of the problems: The ease in which an employer can declare itself qualified to drop contraception coverage, and a current state law that's stricken from the current bill that provides discrimination protection.

"Supporters of this bill claim that they only want to exempt a few businesses from the law," Soler Meetze continues in a statement released today. "But there are more than 150 businesses in the Phoenix area alone -- businesses that provide a wide range of services -- that could drop contraception coverage under this bill. Removing these vital protections for women and families is the wrong move for Arizona. HB 2625 plays politics with women's health."

The other half -- the deleted anti-discrimination line -- is a little more tricky.

The bill in its current form removes the phrase "religious employer" in all references, and is now called a "religiously affiliated employer."

The current law in question states, "A religious employer shall not discriminate against an employee who independently chooses to obtain insurance coverage or prescriptions for contraceptives from another source."

That language is not precisely replaced in the proposed bill, instead making the less-specific statement on several occasions that the bill's new provisions "shall not be construed to restrict or limit any protections against employment discrimination that are prescribed in federal or state law."

Above all this, the ACLU still maintains that there's nothing about the bill that protects "religious freedom" -- which we've been hearing for a couple months now.

In early March, Planned Parenthood Arizona President Bryan Howard rejected the concept that the bill was even about "religious freedom," calling it a "political strategy to speak to a very specific segment of the Arizona public."

"This is a continuation of everything we've been seeing from Mr. Santorum [and] the vile commentary from Rush Limbaugh," Howard told New Times last month. "This is a frontal attack on basic women's healthcare."

The Senate cleared the bill yesterday with 19 "ayes," nine "nays," and two no-votes.

Bill text here.

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5 comments
Adela
Adela

So when is the Islamic Republic of Arizona going to pass legislation that an employer does not have to hire a woman if it conflicts with their religious beliefs that women should be breeders only and not workers?

naksuthin
naksuthin

Well, if Republicans are so concerned about protecting the religious
rights of employers, Is it OK if I refuse to pay my self employment
taxes because I am a pacifist and don’t want my tax dollars going to buy
bullets, bombs and tanks or to killing innocent Afghan women and
children in their sleep?

slippery mike
slippery mike

we have nothing to fear but the faaarrrrr right/GOP.
where are the liberals trying to tax me and take my guns?
where is the threat from the left?
the right is controled by slave owners on the plantation,the civil war isnt over,it's HALFTIME IN AMERICA for the final chapter of jefferson davis asault on the union!
arizona is still alligned with the confederacy(originaly too pussified to stand up to those confederates)
arizona......the meth lab of democracy!

shadeaux14
shadeaux14

First time I have seen a political party dumb enough to aggressively alienate both women and Latinos. It's sort of like watching lemmings jockey for position to be the first to jump off the cliff.

Albert
Albert

I wonder if these bills are the state "unconstitutional" bills? The bills that should have been sent to the governor, but were held back??? There are rules, laws, time frames and procedures to follow.. I hope they have the budget completed!!   

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