March 29, 2012 Print
Cathi Herrod, Center for Arizona Policy

Arizona Employer Protections Bill to Get Second Vote

by Karla Dial

The Arizona Senate on Wednesday shot down a bill seeking to protect employers from being forced to pay for workers’ contraceptive drugs and devices. But the bill will get a second vote before the legislative session ends in mid-April.

Though HB 2625 passed the state House of Representatives with a two-thirds majority recently, the Senate rejected it on a narrow 17-13 vote when seven Republicans joined the chamber’s nine Democrats.

“Opponents completely distorted what the bill would do and not do,” said Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy. “It was drafted by Alliance Defense Fund attorney to protect faith-based institutions as well as employers who may object to covering birth control for religious reasons. The discussion became totally focused on birth-control pills — they said if a woman has to take them to treat endometriosis, then employers and insurance companies would know her medical condition. They were able to find a soft spot.”

Some reports suggested that the legislation would allow employers to fire workers who take contraceptives. That’s not the case, Herrod said.

“The core issue that people have got to see is that a woman’s right to have birth-control pills does not give her the right to compel anyone to pay for the pills or her abortions,” she explained. “Planned Parenthood and their allies believe that women should just be able to force their employers to do that, regardless of their religious views, and that goes against the First Amendment.

“The religious liberty angle got lost” in the debate, she added. “It was shocking to see the lack of respect. This is a wake-up call to see how religious liberty is used by many of our elected officials. It’s almost anti-Catholic bigotry of a different type.”

The controversy over the legislation mirrors what’s taking place in the federal debate over ObamaCare: Since 2003, Arizona has had a law with the same overly narrow religious exemption, requiring all religious employers except churches to provide insurance covering contraceptives and drugs that could cause early abortions for workers

“We tried to change that religious exception a few years ago, and (former Gov. Janet) Napolitano vetoed it. This was an attempt to fix that,” Herrod said.

Ironically, all but one of the Republicans who voted against the religious-protections bill had voted just 24 hours earlier to ban late-term abortions.

“People can think a yes vote on a bill like 2625 can hurt them politically, when they already have a pretty solid voting record,” Herrod noted. “Planned Parenthood all of a sudden isn’t going to support someone who voted ‘No’ on this, when the day before they voted ‘Yes’ on banning abortions after 20 weeks.”

Read Arizona HB 2625.