March 03--If HB 2625 is signed into law, businesses in Yuma that offer their employees health insurance could refuse to provide contraceptive coverage to their female workers if that goes against their religious beliefs.
"It would just open the door to every employer and every insurer in Yuma County to superimpose his or her values on the major health care decisions available to the women of Yuma County," said Bryan Howard, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Arizona.
HB 2625 was passed by the state House Thursday with a 39 to 18 vote. It proceeds to the state Senate, and if approved there, could be signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer.
While proponents claim the bill was crafted to protect religious freedom, Howard believes it does the opposite.
"Those that are characterizing this as a religious freedom debate are wrong," he said.
"It's about women's health. This legislation ... basically infringes on the religious freedom of the employees, (and) their ability to seek out health care that fits their faith is taken away. It enables the employer to impose his or her particular brand of faith on everybody who works for that company. That is not an example of religious freedom."
If the bill does become law, women in Yuma who are forced to go outside of their health plans to access contraceptives might not be affected as adversely as women in other rural areas, Howard noted.
"Fortunately in Yuma County we have the Planned Parenthood health center where we have affordable contraception. But in places like Lake Havasu City, or towns that are farther away from health centers, accessing affordable contraception could be a real barrier."
Chris McDaniel can be reached at [email protected] or 539-6849.
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