April 27, 2012 — The Arizona Senate on Wednesday approved a bill (HB 2625) that broadens the types of religiously affiliated employers that can claim an exemption from a state law requiring employers to include contraceptive coverage in their health plans, the AP/San Antonio Express reports (Davenport, AP/San Antonio Express, 4/25).
The original version of the bill would have allowed any employer to refuse to provide contraceptive coverage for religious reasons. However, a joint conference committee on April 16 amended the bill so it would only apply 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" (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/18).
According to the AP/Express, the change would mean that religiously affiliated charities and hospitals could claim the exemption, which currently applies to religious entities such as churches.
The measure will now advance to Gov. Jan Brewer (R). The governor's decision likely will be delayed because she has said she will not consider any legislation until the state's budget is finalized. Brewer voiced concerns about the original bill but has not said whether she would sign the final version (AP/San Antonio Express, 4/25).