A bold claim about birth control exclusion bill: Is it true?
CREATED Mar. 14, 2012
Reporter: Kevin Keen
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - A proposed state law sparks controversy across Arizona, the country and the Internet. Now, opponents are making a bold claim about how it would impact women. But is it true?
The bill, which already passed the House, would allow any employer to refuse to include contraception in its health care coverage offered to employees. The company or organization could make that change if the “items or services is contrary to the religious beliefs of the employer.” That idea in and of itself has stirred up conservative, women's rights, health care and other groups.
But the bill would also eliminate some language in state law already on the books, including this key phrase: "A religious employer shall not discriminate against an employee who independently chooses to obtain insurance coverage or prescriptions for contraceptives from another source." So, if House Bill 2625 passes, that sentence would no longer be state law.
Determining the impact of that depends on who you ask.
The ACLU, for one, opposes the legislation and launched an online petition to end it this week. The introduction reads: "Arizona's HB 2625 is a radical proposal that would allow employers to claim they have the right to fire employees for using birth control." The organization also published a blog post titled "Use Birth Control? You're Fired!"
“What the bill does is it removes existing anti-discrimination language that prevents an employer from discriminating against a woman for going out on her own and obtaining birth control,” said Alessandra Soler Meetze, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona.
Meetze said federal law would still protect a woman from being fired. Assuming that, reporter Kevin Keen asked, “Does it matter whether or not that language is removed?” Meetze asked: “I think it certainly does matter because there are employers here in Arizona who simply take action--there are a lot of times that employers violate federal law and violate people's rights. Here we are as a state making it easier for employers to do that.”
9 On Your Side took the ACLU’s claim to Representative Terri Proud, who cosponsored the bill. Keen said, “The first line of it, I'll quote here, says, 'Arizona's HB 2625 is a radical proposal that would allow employers to claim they have the right to fire employees for using birth control.' Is that right?” Proud replied: “No.” The Tucson legislator, a Republican, said the claims just aren't true.
We asked her why the bill would remove that language from existing law. “Well, I didn't do it,” Proud said. “I wasn't there in the committee so I couldn't tell you. I would check with the bill sponsor.”
9 On Your Side contacted all seven of the legislators listed as sponsors of this bill Wednesday afternoon. Only two got back to us, Representatives Proud and Frank Pratt of Central Arizona. Pratt told us he didn't know enough about the current state and language of the bill to answer questions about it.
Proud calls the ACLU’s campaign a scare tactic. “How do you motivate people?” she said. “You motivate people by fear. This is just one thing that they're doing.”
The bill appears to be in Senate committee and could go for a full Senate vote. Then the governor would need to sign it for it to become law.