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State Lawmakers Approve Controversial Contraception Bill

On Wednesday, state lawmakers approved a controversial contraception bill that allows Arizona employers to drop birth control coverage from health-care plans, The Associated Press reports. The Arizona Senate previously voted down a slightly broader version of the bill in March.

Many commentators have criticized House Bill 2625 for impinging upon women’s right to privacy. However, supporters of the bill argue that it’s necessary to protect employers’ religious rights.

Arizona is one of 26 states with laws requiring employers to cover contraceptives in their health insurance plans. However, Arizona law already allows religious entities, like churches, to exclude contraception coverage from their health care packages. The new bill expands that exemption to include charities and hospitals.

The rejected earlier form of the bill would’ve allowed a much broader spectrum of businesses to claim the exemption. While supporters of the bill’s earlier draft said that entities like religious bookstores and church-operated hospitals would be covered, opponents of the bill argued that any business could change its legal records to claim itself a religion-affiliated organization and opt out of contraception coverage.

The vote on the new version of the bill was largely split along party lines. Many Democrats like Sen. Paula Aboud viewed the bill as trampling on women’s rights “to control their own bodies.” Republican supporters, however, argued that the bill protected the First Amendment rights of employers who were opposed to birth control on religious grounds.

The contraception coverage bill was one of several reproductive rights issues tackled by the Arizona legislature this year. So far, state lawmakers have approved bills to cutoff organizations like Planned Parenthood from taxpayer funding and place new restrictions on abortions. House Bill 2625 will now go to Gov. Jan Brewer for approval or veto.

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