Arizona lawmaker Debbie Lesko has proposed a bill that would allow employers to require women seeking birth control prescriptions to prove they aren’t using the pills for contraception. Lesko claims this legislation will somehow protect First Amendment rights, by allowing employers with moral objections to birth control to opt out of paying for it.
The problem is…well, there are so many. The only brilliantly pointed out by our friends at Jezebel is that Arizona is an at-will employment state. So all those “mom and pop” employers who will be opting out of paying for birth control prescriptions would also be within their rights to just opt out of employing women who do use birth control. Classy.
In essence, how it works is this: The Arizona law would allow employers to insist that a woman using insurance to pay for birth control prove she’s being prescribed the Pill for a medical reason other than contraception. To help with cramps or acne, say. If she’s using it to avoid getting knocked up, the employer would be allowed to refuse coverage based on religious beliefs. Since Arizona is an at-will state for employment, most employees can be let go for any reason. That means the same employees who are turning over their sensitive medical information to get insurance coverage could not only be denied coverage, they could also be out of a job.
The worst part of this is that it makes already vulnerable women more vulnerable. The law is so vague, it lets individual employers invade their female employees privacy and then pass judgement on them without a clear standed. What does a moral objection mean? One can easily imagine a situation in which an employer feels OK about birth control but doesn’t like premarital sex. That employer would have the legal right to fire a woman just because they think her boyfriend is sketchy, while giving married employees a pass.
How did an idea this bad get any legislative backing? Well, we all know there’s been a lot of crazy going on over birth control lately. The rep who put this bill forward says she’s doing it to protect religious freedom, by which she means the freedom of religious people to use their beliefs as a weapon to control other people’s lives.
As Jezebel says:
It’s all about freedom, she said, echoing everyone who thinks there’s nothing ironic about claiming that a country that’s “free” allows people’s bosses to dictate what medical care is available to them through insurance. First amendment. The constitution. Rights of religious people to practice the treasured tenets of their faiths, the tenets that dictate that religious people get to tell everyone who is not of faith how they’re supposed to live, and the freedom to have that faith enforced by law. Freedom®.
Freedom. Right. I’d like to keep the freedom to have conversations about birth control remain private between me and my doctor, thanks.