Arizona Governor Signs Bill Allowing Religious Employers To Restrict Women’s Access To Contraception

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer. Photo credit: Laura Segall/Getty Images.

Another shot in the Republican war on women has been fired in Arizona. On Friday, Republican Governor Jan Brewer signed a bill into law that allows employers to deny women access to birth control by claiming religious freedom.

The Arizona Daily Sun reports, “Employers that formally identify themselves as religiously oriented organizations will be able to drop contraception coverage for birth control purposes. They’d still have to provide it for other medical reasons. The bill also affects coverage for abortion-inducing drugs.”

The bill underwent months of debate and several changes before finally getting through the Arizona legislature. One point of contention was that the original language in the bill allowed any employer to deny contraception coverage due to religious objections, but that has since been amended so that only religious oriented institutions and organizations can opt out of covering birth control. This change could be circumvented, however, if an employer merely changes their business records, which is not very hard to do with a “pro-business” Republican Party in control.

Another point of debate was a provision that would have allowed employers to force their female employees to disclose why they needed contraception. Under the new law, employers can opt out of birth control coverage unless the contraception medication is for a medical reason other than preventing pregnancy. However, employers are barred from forcing their female employees to reveal the medical reasons why they need contraception. But this too may be easy to get around, as women may feel pressure to submit to their employer’s demand at the risk of losing their jobs.

Republicans in Arizona have been one of the most vicious opponents of contraception and abortion access. Earlier this month, Brewer signed a law restricting government funding of non-abortion services provided by Planned Parenthood such as cancer screenings. Before that, she signed into law a bill that bans abortion after 20 weeks and may ban abortion after 18 weeks, because the bill defines conception as occurring two weeks before a woman even has sex.

Clearly, Republicans in Arizona have a problem with women having reproductive rights. It is obvious that Republicans want to control what decisions women make regarding their own bodies. The question is, what are women in Arizona going to do about it? Are they going to sit back and allow Republicans to take away their privacy and personal liberty, or are they going to declare war against Republicans and take back their reproductive freedom?