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Arizona’s ALEC Leader Wants Your Boss to Make Decisions About Your Contraception Coverage
One of the most extreme proposals yet in a recent spate of attacks on women's reproductive health comes out of Arizona. American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) Arizona State Chair, Rep. Debbie Lesko (R), is sponsoring a new bill that allows employers to pry into the sexual life of female employees.
The Arizona Legislature is considering Lesko's new bill which would grant all employers, not just those that are religiously affiliated, the option to exclude contraceptives from health insurance coverage. The only exception is if a woman can "prove," by disclosing private medical information, that she is taking the contraceptives for other medical reasons.
Arizona already has a law on the books that allows religious employers to deny such coverage, but the current bill would modify the law to allow any employer (or "mom and pop" businesses as Lesko tries to spin it) to make the same exclusion.
While women are still free to go out and buy their own insurance in the free market, the bill specifically removes a provision in the current state law that prohibits religious employers from discriminating against an employee who chooses to use birth control pills and pay for them out of pocket. This has prompted observers to suggest that employers will be allowed to fire employees that don't have union protection if they disagree with their health care choices. Or as Jezebel.com put it "the law will allow employers to fire women for using whore pills."
"We don't live in the Soviet Union"
The bill's author, claims the bill responds to a contraceptive mandate in the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed into law March 2010.
"We don't live in the Soviet Union," Lesko told the State Press. "And so government shouldn't be telling employers, Catholic organizations and mom and pop (businesses) to do something that's against their moral beliefs."
Bryan Howard of Arizona Planned Parenthood called the measure "an attack on women's health care and their ability to make health care decisions for themselves and their families according to their faith," not their bosses.
Arizona college student Megan Riley said the employer doesn't have the right to impose their religious beliefs on their employees. "Taking away birth control is not a religious freedom," Riley said. "It's oppression."
ALEC Legislators Sponsor Most Radical Proposals in the Nation
Lesko is the "Public Sector" Chair for ALEC in Arizona, whose membership list boasts a number of the politicians spearheading the national "War on Women." The list includes: Arizona State Senator Nancy Barto (R), 2011's ALEC "Legislator of the Year," who sponsored an Arizona bill that would make it legal for doctors to withhold information about the health status of a fetus that might cause a patient to want an abortion.
Virginia Rep. Kathy Byron (R), an ALEC Telecommunications and Information Technology Task Force member, sponsored the controversial Virginia legislation that would require women to undergo an invasive and medically unnecessary transvaginal ultrasound 24 hours before an abortion. The bill caused a national uproar. Characterized as "state rape" by Democrats, the bill was passed in a version that still require the ultrasound, but removed the vaginal penetration.
What about the Men?
While scores of bills have been introduced nationwide to interfere with women's reproductive health options, little attention is paid to the health choices of men.
To make sure men were not feeling left out, State Senator Nina Turner (D-OH) has proposed an amendment that would require doctors to put men through a variety of tests and counseling before they are prescribed Viagra. Under the legislation, every man asking for a Viagra prescription will be "tested for heart problems, receive counseling about possible side effects and receive information about 'pursuing celibacy as a viable lifestyle choice.'"
"[This bill is about showing] men as much love in the reproductive health arena as they have shown us over the years," said Turner.
While the legislation is meant to draw attention to the slew of bills invading women's privacy and placing draconian burdens on women's reproductive health rights, the American Civil Liberties Union has started a more serious petition against the Arizona House Bill saying it is discriminatory and must be abolished. "[HB 2625 is] part of a widespread attempt to prevent access to contraception and limit women's health care. We can't let extremists get away with this kind of attack," said the ACLU.
Lesko's bill passed the Arizona House with a 39-18 vote and now awaits Senate approval. It could then be signed into law by ALEC Alum Governor Jan Brewer, who addressed a recent ALEC meeting in Arizona and used the opportunity to declare war on the civil service merit selection system, prompting some commenters to suggested she wanted to be known as the "Scott Walker of the West."