April 16, 2012 — The Arizona Senate on Thursday gave preliminary approval to a measure (HB 2625) that would allow certain employers to refuse to provide contraceptive coverage for religious reasons, the Arizona Republic reports.
After sponsor Rep. Debbie Lesko (R) promised to amend the bill to only apply to "religiously affiliated" employers, three senators changed their votes from no to yes, allowing the bill to pass in a 17-13 vote. The measure will have to be amended in a bicameral conference committee and then undergo a final vote in both chambers before advancing to the governor.
According to a draft of the proposed amendment, religiously affiliated employers would include not-for-profit groups that primarily employ and serve people of the same religion, as well as entities with articles of incorporation that clearly state they are religiously motivated and base their operations on religious beliefs. Under current law, the definition of religious employer only includes churches or religious groups that employ people of a single faith (Beard Rau, Arizona Republic, 4/12).
The Senate on March 28 voted to reject a previous version that would have allowed any employer to refuse to provide contraceptive coverage for moral or religious reasons. The bill would have required employers to cover birth control for non-contraceptive purposes. In these cases, the measure would allow an employer's health plan to require that woman provide proof that they have a non-contraceptive medical need (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/30).