Arizona Bill Would Allow Employers To Fire Women Using Birth Control

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Posted by Becky Lake on March 14, 2012 at 3:42 PM

It really just won’t go away will it? The controversy over our right to get birth control from our health insurance continues. Except this time it’s not just old men making headlines–it’s a woman. That’s right, Arizona Republican Debbie Lesko says that employers should have the right to look into our sex lives and ask exactly why we use birth control. And if that’s not bad enough, employers could potentially fire a woman using birth control for non-medical reasons.

The state’s Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6-2 this week to endorse a controversial bill that would allow Arizona employers the right to deny health insurance coverage for contraceptives based on religious objections. Yes, we’ve heard this debate before. However, Lesko went so far as to propose that employers should be able to ask their employees for proof of a medical prescription if they take contraceptives for non-reproductive purposes, such as hormone control or acne treatment. In other words, employers should be able to look into their employee’s medical and sexual lives and demand proof that these pills are being used for non-sexual reasons.

Lesko said she believes this is about freedom: “I believe we live in America. We don’t live in the Soviet Union. So, government should not be telling the organizations or mom and pop employers to do something against their moral beliefs.”

Ah, yes, the Soviet Union. The sort of place where a woman might think about getting birth control through an insurance plan to which she contributes premiums without having to show her boss her prescription in order to prove that she wasn't using it to not get pregnant. A hellhole where women don't run the risk of losing their jobs over their sex lives or someone opinions about them. What a horrible, awful place.

True, the government shouldn’t be interfering with our personal lives on many accounts, but neither should our employers. The last thing women want is to have their boss asking nosy questions about their medical and sex life. Even if you really like your boss, that’s just plain creepy.

Nevertheless, Lesko went on to say it’s all about protecting the rights of religious organizations: “My whole legislation is about our First Amendment rights and freedom of religion. All my bill does is that an employer can opt out of the mandate if they have any religious objections.”

OK, well how about protecting our rights to medical privacy? I mean, you can’t even stand too close to someone at the pharmacy for fear you’re going to overhear! What about the rights to practice whatever religious beliefs that someone wants without being penalized by their employer? And what about the rights to providing equal health care coverage to everyone and not deny that to a woman simply because she wants to control what happens to her body? It’s hard to imagine it will ever get passed, isn’t it.

The committee has heard speeches from women about their struggles with polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis, and other conditions requiring them to use birth control. They believe the bill would impose on women’s rights to keep their medical records private, and while you or I wouldn’t necessarily mind sharing our medical records, there are probably 10 women around us who would.

And, as expected, Planned Parenthood agrees. The Arizona chapter’s president, Bryan Howard, said he opposes any bill that goes against the accessibility of women’s health care.

And what’s even worse is the fact that some fear employees could be fired over their use of birth control because Arizona is an at-will state, meaning people can theoretically be fired for anything at any time, as long as it’s not illegal. Great.

Like I said, it’s hard to imagine this bill passing, but it doesn’t make it any less scary or depressing. How do you feel about this controversial bill?


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