AZ Contraception bill sponsor says it's about freedom--others disagree

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AZ Contraception bill sponsor says it's about freedom--others disagree

CREATED Mar 15, 2012

Reporter: Craig Smith

PHOENIX (KGUN9-TV) - A proposed new law has Arizona in the national spotlight.
It would allow employers to deny insurance coverage for birth control if they object on religious grounds.
And critics claim it would let employers fire women who use it.
When 9 On Your Side took these concerns co bill co-sponsor, Pima County State Rep Terri Proud Wednesday night, she told us to ask the measure's main sponsor-- Representative Debbie Lesko-- so we did.

The proposed Arizona contraception law is working its way through the Legislature just as the issue of coverage for contraception has become a hot topic for debate nationwide.
Current law requires employers to pay for FDA approved contraceptives. Supporters say lifting the requirement is a matter of the employer's personal freedom.  Opponents say the proposal takes away women's freedoms.

State Rep Debbie Lesko wrote the bill.

She says, "Listen. I'm not a Catholic.  I don't have any moral objection to the use of contraceptives but I respect the people that do. And that's what this is all about, protecting our First Amendment rights."
Critics of the bill point out what people often call birth control pills are not just for preventing a pregnancy. Their hormones can treat other conditions.
The bill says employers insurance would cover those pills if an employee can prove they are for something other than contraception.

KGUN9 reporter Craig Smith asked Representative Lesko: "Where does this fit with medical privacy law where your employer isn't supposed to exactly what your ailments may be?"

Representative Lesko says a woman would not be forced to discuss her illness with a boss, just the insurance company.

The bill would also remove wording in state law already on the books.. Including this key phrase:

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

Lesko says enemies of the bill are spreading lies that that change opens the door for an employer to fire a woman for using birth control. 

Lesko says, "My legislation does nothing of the sort. I can't even imagine where that's coming from. It must be spread by my opposition to try to cause fear and angst among women. Listen, I'm not gonna do anything that hurts women. I'm a woman, ok? So I'm not gonna do anything like the things my opposition says its doing I wouldn't like it."

Tucson Democratic State Senator Paula Aboud says, "The Republican Party is very clearly an anti woman legislature in Arizona."
Now that the bills passed the House, Senators like Senator Paula Aboud will get their chance to vote on it.  She sees the bill as an intrusion on women's rights but knows Republicans have an overwhelming majority so there's a good chance the bill will pass.       

KGUN9 reporter Craig Smith asked her: "If this makes it to passage. If the governor goes ahead and signs it, what recourse is left, lawsuits?" 

Sen. Aboud: "I don't know. The way we protect citizens in Arizona is through lawsuits because the Arizona legislature is not protecting our vulnerable populations and right now women are a vulnerable population.  They are under attack in this state and across this country."

Senator Aboud says women should tell their lawmakers what they think of this bill.
KGUN9 also had a quick word with Republican Senator Frank Antenori. He's majority whip so it's his job to know how his party will vote and he's confident the Senate will pass the bill.