Arizona Capitol

Arizona Bill Calls for "Freedom" in Prescription Drug Coverage -- Unless You're a Woman and Your Boss Can Cite a Deity

The Arizona Senate is currently considering a bill -- which has already been passed by the House -- that would keep all of the existing prescription drug coverage you're getting through your employer or health insurance company... if you're a dude.

If you're a woman, and Jesus or a similar figure is telling your boss/health insurance company to be offended, then that would change.

House Bill 2625, as it's been explained, calls for any employer or health insurance company to deny women contraception under their prescription drug program if they cite a religious belief or moral reasons.

Planned Parenthood Arizona President Bryan Howard, however, tells New Times the religious-freedom argument a "complete representation."

If it's true that this is a "religious freedom" issue, Howard says, then it's a religious-freedom violation on the individual who'd be denied her contraception coverage because of others' religious beliefs.

Anjali Abraham, the Public Policy Director for the ACLU of Arizona, tells New Times the bill would "prioritize" an employer's religious beliefs over an employee's -- something the ACLU isn't exactly pleased with.

Abraham's testifying before the Senate committee today, in an attempt to stop the bill that's already passed the House with a "tremendous amount of momentum."

Currently, a nonprofit organization described as a "religious employer" can set up a health care insurance program that excludes coverage for any FDA-approved contraceptive method.

Under HB 2625, that privilege extends to any employer or corporation (and others) offering a heath insurance plan, as long as they cite "religious beliefs or moral convictions."

The law only deals with contraception, so if the Flying Spaghetti Monster tells you covering inhalers for asthmatics is against your religion, you're SOL for now.

Still, the law calls for a few more controversial changes to the statutes.

Abraham pointed to an interesting section of law that's stricken under the proposed bill, which states, "A religious employer shall not discriminate against an employee who independently chooses to obtain insurance coverage or prescriptions for contraceptives from another source."

Striking what Abraham calls an "anti-discrimination protection" from a current law isn't making the ACLU too happy, either.

Meanwhile, Howard sees this bill -- among a few others -- as "political strategy to speak to a very specific segment of the Arizona public."

You may know which "segment" Howard's referring to there.

"This is a continuation of everything we've been seeing from Mr. Santorum [and] the vile commentary from Rush Limbaugh," Howard says. "This is a frontal attack on basic women's healthcare."

All-in-all, the ACLU and Planned Parenthood are fans of just about nothing in this bill.

"This needs to be understood as a major step backward for Arizona women," Howard says.