Arizona Bill Would Let More Employers Nix Contraceptive Coverage

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Howard called it "disappointing" that women had contraceptive health access for a decade until the bill was introduced, calling it a "setback" to equal access to medication.

Johnson points out that the bill won't allow just any employer to require a prescription for contraceptives, but only those that have religious beliefs against paying for them. And he said the incentive for an employer to fake religious beliefs to get out of contraceptive coverage for economic reasons seems "extremely unlikely."

"The fact is employers were covering it anyway," he said. "I don't think employers are going to take unnecessary grief [to remove coverage] unless they have these beliefs."

Johnson said the number of private employers who are seeking this exemption "is actually a pretty small universe."

"But it's very important to them," he said. "That's not to say we are not concerned about women's health or all people. This is about religious liberties and protecting those rights."

McNerney said he was in favor of allowing the free market determine what should be included in insurance plans.

"If that's not included in the compensation package of the company you work for, and it's that important to you, you could always look for a job in another place," he said.

Joan Williams, law professor and director of the Center for Work Life Law at the University of California, Hastings, said similar bills have been introduced across the country, which she called "troubling" from a constitutional viewpoint.

"I understand it can be troubling for someone who doesn't believe in contraception to have to cover contraception as part of health coverage," she said. "But number one, women have a constitutional right to control their reproductive lives and to say to any women, 'You have no constitutional right if you're employed [by a religious employer],' leaves no constitutional right."

The Center for Arizona Policy, which represents several evangelical churches in Arizona, does not take a position on contraception but says it supports the bill because it supports "religious liberties."

Sheasby said that sentiment is in line "across the board" with those of many churches and pastors who also do not take a position on the use of contraceptives.

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