Why Debbie Lesko might want your boss to be able to fire you for using birth control.

13 Mar 2012 07:50 pm
Posted by: Donna

Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Glendale) is the prime sponsor of SB2625, which allows employers to deny coverage for contraception for reproductive purposes and to demand a doctor’s note for contraception prescribed for other medical conditions. It’s possible the bill would allow employers to fire employees who obtained contraception through their own private insurance or by paying for it outright.

Arizona House Bill 2625, authored by Majority Whip Debbie Lesko, R-Glendale, would permit employers to ask their employees for proof of medical prescription if they seek contraceptives for non-reproductive purposes, such as hormone control or acne treatment.

“I believe we live in America. We don’t live in the Soviet Union,” Lesko said. “So, government should not be telling the organizations or mom and pop employers to do something against their moral beliefs.”

Lesko said this bill responds to a contraceptive mandate in the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed into law March 2010.

“My whole legislation is about our First Amendment rights and freedom of religion,” Lesko said. “All my bill does is that an employer can opt out of the mandate if they have any religious objections.”

Actually, they should opt out of the health insurance game entirely if women preventing pregnancy is so offensive to them. Lindsay Beyerstein explains in a recent In These Times piece how “religious freedom” doesn’t mean religious employers should get to have it both ways:

If an employer is going to offer you a company car as a benefit, she doesn’t get to decide what the safety specs are for that car. That’s between the government and the car manufacturer on behalf of the consumer. By the same token, if an employer is going to offer you health insurance at all, that insurance has to meet the minimum standards.

When the Affordable Care Act goes into full effect, employers with at least 50 employees will have a choice. They can either offer qualified health insurance or they can pay a tax of $2000 per employee. If a large religious institution doesn’t want to offer health insurance to its workers, for whatever reason, it can simply pay up. Religious liberty does not require the government to give religious institutions a pass on offering substandard insurance.

Employees who don’t get coverage through work will be eligible for subsidized private plans in the exchanges or Medicaid if their income is too low to afford any premium. Keep that in mind when you learn that HB2625 was amended to remove the following provision from the existing statute:

A religious employer shall not discriminate against an employee who independently chooses to obtain insurance coverage or prescriptions for contraceptives from another source.

With that provision removed it’s entirely possible that the religious employer, or any secular employer with a moral objection to birth control, can still dictate that you can’t get coverage for it in your insurance plan even if you don’t get your insurance through work. That is what’s spawning the rash of “Your Employer Can Fire You for Using Birth Control in Arizona” posts going viral across the country. EJ Montini at the AZ Republic weighed in with his own, and asked Rep. Lesko why that amendment was necessary.

She wrote back to me on Tuesday, saying in part, “There have been no discimrination [sic] cases brought forward regarding this issue either before 2002 or after 2002 (when current law went into effect.) We do not single out other prescriptions and other things and say that we can’t discriminate against using the, so why single out this oen [sic] issue? It is not necessary.”

Which means leaving the provision in should make no difference either, right Debbie? Except that women who don’t get insurance from their employers, possibly the majority of women, are going to be able to get their contraception covered under Obama’s birth control mandate once the ACA kicks in. Without having to ask anyone’s permission.


  1. Comment by Michael Powers on March 13, 2012 9:04 pm

    This is what happens when we elect the self-righteous, the superstitious, and the barely literate to hold public office. There was a time when I didn’t think it was too much to expect excellence from these people. Now I’d settle for the ability to form complete sentences.

  2. Comment by Marilyn Williams on March 15, 2012 10:14 am

    I have batted heads with that woman on other issues before. She is pretty much a lost cause to argue with or get her to present her position in a reasonable manner.
    I wonder who is supposed to snitch on the employee who has obtained her own insurance to pay for the pill – the doctor or the pharmacist.

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