This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published March 27, 2012 on The Daily Caller website.
While the Supreme Court weighs the constitutionality of Obamacare and the nation reels from the Obama administration's order that Catholic hospitals must provide contraceptives and abortifacients to their employees, the ACLU of Arizona is attacking a proposal to restore employers' freedom of conscience.
House Bill 2625, sponsored by Republican State Senator Debbie Lesko, would allow all Arizona employers to opt out of the federal contraception mandate. To the ACLU, this is tantamount to shutting off medical care to women.
The ACLU has launched an online petition with the promise that "we won't stand silently by and watch extremists use religion to discriminate."
An ACLU press release claims that the bill "would take away women's access to basic health services." While the statement stops just short of declaring a tongue-depressor crisis and neglects to include a video of a Paul Ryan lookalike pushing an old woman in a wheelchair off a cliff, some in the media have picked up on the ACLU's line and upped the ante.
For instance, New York Daily News writer Lindsay Goldwert actually led off an article on the Arizona legislation this way:
Do you take birth control in the state of Arizona? Under a new bill making its way through the state legislature, that could become a fireable offense.
Say what? All the bill does is allow employers to choose health plans that reflect their values. It says nothing about the private lives of employees. At one time, The Daily News actually employed editors, but that was before the Internet.
Ms. Goldwert goes on to quote ACLU of Arizona Public Policy Director Anjali Abraham, who coyly opines, "Whether an employer can actually fire a woman who is found to be taking birth control is unclear, but it leaves room for that possibility."
I guess it also leaves room for the possibility of a company forcing female employees to watch bass fishing on TV, since it does not specifically prohibit that.
In a column for The Arizona Republic, Catherine Glenn Foster, an Alliance Defense Fund litigation counsel, explains that the proposal amends earlier laws that overreach in similar fashion to the Obamacare dictate:
The 2002 government mandates attack the religious freedom of all Arizona citizens by forcing all employers to cover abortion-inducing drugs and other objectionable items related to contraception -- even if they must violate their religious beliefs.
HB 2625 fixes that by declaring that any entity or individual with a religious objection to paying for such coverage is free to contract with an employer and insurer who want to honor their conscience. In fact, other religious freedom statutes in Arizona already make the anti-religious mandates unlawful, and HB 2625 simply fixes those statutes to make them comport with existing law.
One more thing: If an insured employee uses contraceptives for actual medical purposes, such as to treat endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), her employer must reimburse the cost.
From this, the ACLU and other panic merchants derive the idea that a woman will be fired just for using birth control. No, she'd have to lie about using it for other purposes so her employer's insurance would pay for it.
Or she could just get it down at Target or Wal-Mart for $9.00 a month.