April 18, 2012 — An Arizona joint conference committee on Monday amended a bill (HB 2625) to limit which institutions can seek a religious exemption from a state law that requires contraceptive coverage in employer health plans, the Arizona Republic reports.
The original version of the bill would have allowed any employer to refuse to provide contraceptive coverage for religious reasons (Beard Rau, Arizona Republic, 4/16). The amendment narrows the exemption to "religiously affiliated employers," defined as entities that employ or serve individuals who share a single religious belief, as well as religious institutions whose incorporation papers "clearly state that it is a religiously motivated organization and whose religious beliefs are central to the organization's operating principles."
Republicans on the conference committee defeated two amendments by state Sen. Linda Lopez (D). One proposal would have prohibited employers from discriminating against workers who obtain birth control outside of their employer's health plan. The other would have required employers or insurers that ask for an exemption from the law to provide notification to current and prospective employees.
The amended version now goes back to the full House and Senate, both of which could vote as soon as Wednesday (del Puerto, Arizona Capitol Times, 4/16).
House Approves Bill Adding Protections for Workers Who Deny Services for Religious Reasons
In related news, the Arizona House on Monday approved a bill that would provide legal protections for employees who refuse to provide services to clients based on religious objections, the AP/NECN reports. The bill includes an amendment stating that licensed workers must still meet the "legal standard of care for the profession."
The measure is a broader version of so-called "conscience" clause protections, which many states have approved for health care providers who object to abortion care or emergency contraception. The bill now heads to the Senate, where it is expected to be approved (Price, AP/NECN, 4/16).