Arizona’s ALEC Leader Wants Your Boss to Make Decisions About Your Contraception Coverage

-- by Mary Bottari and Emily Osborne

Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ)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 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.

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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?

Women brought all politicians into the world and can take them outWhile 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."


See for yourselves.

Allowing employers (starting with church organizations) to tamper with the Affordable Healhcare Act's aim to provide equal access to quality healthcare services has 'wedge issue' written all over it; the point of the legislation was to stop healthcare investor combines from dominating atomized, 'minority' individuals (a minority of one). The courts will want to be very careful about granting organizations moral dispensation to apply the law as they see fit. The churches ought also to be very careful about permitting parties with hidden agendas from using them to carry out reactionary purposes. A 'moral exception' is a Pandora's box, of course. Religions who do not believe in doctoring of any sort, to the point where parents allow a child with a treatable medical problem to die due to lack of care, will be in a position to deny employees of healthcare of any sort. Religions who don't recognize the right to divorce, on the same grounds, ought to be able to discriminate against divorcees, gay people in states that don't allow same-sex marriage, or single people who show no clear sign of heading for marriage and mission-procreation. Evolution of the law separating the church and state was aimed at keeping group interests from deciding who the 'good people' are, and keeping them out of the bedroom, or other privileged domains reserved to individual choice. No court of law has even pretended that corporate persons are endowed with a a moral sense entailing rights such as those protected by the Bill of Rights. Organizations, as such, are morally obligated to obey the laws governing organizations wherever they happen to be in the US, and Federal laws touching on discrimination apply everywhere. Persons who work as directors of an organization have moral agency and authority, but their moral authority does not extend beyond their individuality to the organization per se. As moral agents, it's vital to keep moral authority individual, such that employer and employee are considered as having equal moral power. Knowing the minefield the church and state separation issue is, it would be flagrant constitutional adventurism if the court allowed itself to be dragged in to arbitrate which religion had the right moral mix to decide when it would act according to the law and best practices of the represented community regarding the moral place of organizations vis a vis persons. And, yes, if you hear the sound of hammering, the wedge people fuel themselves on bile, so they do not require sleep, or any civic sense for that matter. I sympathize with the obsessed and anyone lacking enough sleep, even if I’m not in a position to absolve or bless. Even a wedge on its side covered with whipped-cream is still just a wedge, so bite down carefully and push it away politely if the look on the person handing out the desserts comes disguised with a powdered wig, a painted on permanent smile, and knows nothing in French except “Let them eat cake.”