Hear Me Out: Should employers be allowed to deny birth control coverage?

PHOENIX - Each Sunday, ABC15.com debuts an Arizona issue - along with two opposing sides on the topic.

Don't worry, you always have the opportunity to make comments at the bottom of the page. Yeah, your opinion matters, too.

This week we're tackling the debate on House Bill 2625, which would give employers the power to deny women insurance coverage for birth control medication unless they can prove it's being used for medical reasons other than contraception.

State Rep. Lela Alston says this is in direct conflict with federal legislation that protects an individual's right to medical privacy.

State Rep. Debbie Lesko says employers should not be forced by the government to do something against their religious beliefs.

Click "next page" to read the first of two positions, " Employers shouldn't be forced to do something against religious beliefs ".


"Employers shouldn't be forced to do something against religious beliefs": By House Majority Whip Debbie Lesko, State Representative, District 9

My legislation to protect our 1st amendment rights does one thing and one thing alone: It allows an employer to opt out of the current government mandate that forces them to include the morning after pill and contraceptives in their employee's insurance benefits, if and only if, the employer has a religious objection. The current mandate, which has been highlighted by the Obama administration's actions, forces employers to include the morning after pill and contraceptives in their insurance benefits even if it violates the employer's religious beliefs.          

Employers should not be forced by the government to do something against their religious beliefs. That violates their 1st amendment rights.

My legislation does NOT authorize employers to ask or know about their employee's contraceptive use and it does NOT authorize employers to fire anyone for that use.

The Catholic Church and other faith-based organizations support my legislation. Under it, employers like St. Vincent De Paul, a Catholic-based charity, would be able to opt out of the mandate. Since the legislation was written with the help of a national legal organization that fights for religious freedoms, I believe it will withstand legal tests. 

Ironically, most of the controversy surrounding my legislation revolves around language already in Arizona law for 10 years...language that I did not even introduce. Current law allows a woman who works for a church that has opted out of the mandate to have the medicine paid for if the woman uses it for a purpose other than birth control. The insurance company, NOT the employer knows that information. The key is that I didn't introduce that language in my bill. It is already in law and it will still be in law whether my legislation passes or not.     

I am not Catholic and I do not have a moral objection to the use of contraceptives, but I do respect the right of those religious employers that do.

Since I am a woman, I would never create legislation that takes away women's rights.  Women who work for religious employers will still be able to obtain medication somewhere else. Since Walmart sells it for $9/month, the cost may even be cheaper than the insurance co-pay itself.

If the government wasn't forcing religious employers to do something against their religious beliefs, I wouldn't be talking about this issue. But protecting our 1st amendment right to freedom of religion is one of the most important things we can do. If we lose that, America's future is truly lost.

It is unfortunate that some in the media are repeating distortions and untruths brought about by the opposition. I wish they would have called me or the lawyers that wrote it so they could report the truth. I guess that wouldn't make a juicy story. Thank you to the media that are publishing my side of the story.

Do you agree with this opinion? Add a comment below to sound off.

Click "next page" to read the second position, "HB 2625 invades privacy, targets women, distracts from real issues Arizona faces ".


" HB 2625 invades privacy, targets women, distracts from real issues Arizona faces ": By Lela Alston, State Representative, District 15

HB 2625 is just the latest attempt by a Tea Party controlled legislature to raise an issue that divides and distracts from what is most important right now – creating jobs and improving education in Arizona.

HB 2625 would give employers the power to deny women insurance coverage for birth control medication unless they can prove it is being used for medical reasons other than contraception. It will require women to disclose personal and private medical information to their employers and even if they do share this information, the employer can still choose not to cover the medication.

Additionally, if this bill becomes law it would give employers the legal right to fire a woman for using birth control medication as contraception. Women would be in danger of losing their jobs for using birth control even if they purchase the medication privately and not through insurance.

If HB 2625 becomes law it will be in direct conflict with federal legislation that protects an individual's right to medical privacy. It is an appalling attempt to promote an extremist agenda.

It is shameful and disappointing that the Tea Party controlled legislature would even consider supporting something like this. HB 2625 is too extreme and based on rigid ideology. Blocking access to birth control medication is detrimental to the health and safety of women and in turn families and children.

The argument is wrapped in the guise of religious freedom but this is truly about privacy. This is intrusive legislation that targets women, who have the right to make private medical decisions. Should we also have legislation requiring men to prove to their employers how and why they are using erectile dysfunction medication?

Most Arizonans—men and women alike—want the legislature to focus on helping middle-class families, putting people back to work and improving schools so that Arizona children can compete for jobs in the future. HB 2625 does nothing about what matters most in our state right now.  

Trying to block access to birth control under the guise of religious freedom is a red herring. This is a distraction, and an insulting one at that, from the real work that the legislature should be doing now. HB 2625 threatens women's health, privacy and employment. It is bad policy, plain and simple. HB 2625 and all other divisive bills should be tossed out. We should stop pandering to an extremist Tea Party agenda and get back to work on the real issues facing Arizona, like creating jobs and improving education.

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