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AZ Senate Panel Approves Bill Allowing Employers to Refuse to Cover Contraception

A Senate panel voted Monday to let employers with religious or moral objections refuse to include contraceptive coverage in their health insurance plans for their workers.

HB 2625 would repeal a decade-old mandate which says that companies that provide health insurance for workers must also cover contraceptives. Representative Debbie Lesko (R-Glendale) said the move is necessary to protect freedom.

"I believe that we live in America," said Lesko. "We don't live in the Soviet Union. And so government shouldn't be telling employers, Catholic organizations or mom-and-pop employers to do something that's against their moral beliefs."

Anjali Abraham, lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union, said her organization supports protecting the religious and moral beliefs of individuals. But she said this measure is unacceptable.

"The bill goes beyond guaranteeing a person's rights to express and practice their faith," said Abraham, " and instead lets employers prioritize their beliefs over the beliefs, the interests, the needs of their employees, in this case, particularly, female employees."

The bill does require employers to provide coverage for contraceptives -- but only if they are being prescribed for some purpose other than preventing pregnancy. But Abraham said the law is written so a woman who wants the pills covered by insurance would have to disclose her otherwise private medical condition to her employer. The 6-2 vote of the Judiciary Committee sends the bill to the full Senate.