Ariz. Senate Comm. Approves Bill To Expand Exemptions to State Contraceptive Coverage Law

March 15, 2012 — Arizona's Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday approved a bill (HB 2625) that would allow any employer to refuse to provide contraceptive coverage for moral or religious reasons, the Arizona Daily Star reports. The committee voted 6-2 in favor of the bill, which would expand an exemption in a state law that requires contraceptive coverage in employer health plans (Fisher, Arizona Daily Star, 3/13). If the Republican-led Senate approves the measure, it will return to the House before advancing to the governor for her signature (AP/KRDO, 3/14).

Anjali Abraham, a lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union, told lawmakers that the legislation goes beyond guarding religious and moral rights "and instead lets employers prioritize their beliefs over the beliefs, interests and needs of their employees."

Abraham noted that the measure would still require employers to cover birth control pills if they are prescribed for non-contraceptive purposes, such as to treat endometriosis. However, a woman seeking coverage for contraception in those circumstances would be required to pay upfront for the prescription and then submit a claim, providing "evidence that the prescription is not in whole or in part" to prevent pregnancy. Doing so would mean the woman has to reveal the medical condition for which she is using contraceptives, information that is supposed to be private, Abraham said (Arizona Daily Star, 3/13).

Arizona is among more than two dozen states that require employers to provide contraceptive coverage. Most of the states, including Arizona, already allow exemptions for religious institutions, while two states -- Illinois and Missouri -- also allow secular employers to deny the coverage for religious reasons. In response to the national debate over new federal contraceptive coverage rules, many conservative state lawmakers are pushing for broader religious exemptions at the state level (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/2).