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Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer Signs Legislation Permitting Employers to Interrogate Female Employees About Contraception Use [Updated again]

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A month or so ago, I wrote about a bill in Arizona (HB 2625) that would permit employers to opt-out of the so-called birth control mandate and interrogate their female employees about their sexual practices, all in the name of “religious freedom”:

You see, if a female employee seeks a medical prescription for contraception, an employer will be permitted to ask that employee for proof that she doesn’t plan to use the contraception for slutty fuck-making.  Using it for medical reasons is ok —  that’s medicine.

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So, if you’re one of those women who uses slutpills for non-slutty reasons, then you’re ok.  You’ll get to keep your job.  Enjoy your ovarian cancer or your acne or whatever, but make sure you put that red cover on your TPS reports or the boss’ll have your head.

But if you’re running around like some sort of whore-nympho, then you better keep that shit on the down-low, because if The Man finds out you might-could get fired:

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6-2 Monday to endorse a controversial bill that would allow Arizona employers the right to deny health insurance coverage for contraceptives based on religious objections.

Arizona House Bill 2625, authored by Majority Whip Debbie Lesko, R-Glendale, would permit employers to ask their employees for proof of medical prescription if they seek contraceptives for non-reproductive purposes, such as hormone control or acne treatment.

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“I believe we live in America. We don’t live in the  Soviet Union,” Lesko said. “So, government should not be telling the organizations or mom and pop employers to do something against their moral beliefs.”

Lesko said this bill responds to a contraceptive mandate in the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed into law March 2010.

“My whole legislation is about our First Amendment rights and freedom of religion,” Lesko said. “All my bill does is that an employer can opt out of the mandate if they have any religious objections.”

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Glendale resident Liza Love said the bill would impose on women’s rights to keep their medical records private.

Love spoke to the committee about her struggle with polycystic ovary syndrome and endometriosis, conditions requiring her to use birth control.

“I wouldn’t mind showing my employer my medical records,” Love said. “But there are 10 women behind me that would be ashamed to do so.”
(read the rest)

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At the time I wrote the post, I was accused of “vagina fauxrage” by some commenters at a blog that I shan’t name, but which starts with “B” and ends in “alloon Juice.”  In response to those accusations, I relayed a post from Susie Madrak at C&L:

Having been accused of vagina “fauxrage” in response to my post yesterday about Arizona’s crazy-ass bill which would permit employers to fire women for being slutty birth control users, I feel compelled to make a counterargument.

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Actually, I’ll let Susie Madrak at Crooks & Liars make that counterargument for me:

 When I was 18, I worked for a publishing company that was a little bit strange. The female department head was a fundamentalist Christian and a member of Jews for Jesus who used to hold Tuesday morning prayer meetings before work. It was well known that if you never did attend a prayer meeting, you could forget about ever getting a raise.

My immediate supervisor was a young woman named Janice. One morning, while Janice was in the restroom, the department head went rummaging in her purse and found her birth control pills. Instead of talking to her, she called all the editorial clerks and assistants into her department and announced that we were no longer permitted to socialize with the editors, and that we were nothing more than “Jezebels, sluts and whores of Babylon”. (I found this particularly ironic since one of my co-workers graduated from a genteel and well-known Southern women’s Christian college. She’d confided in me that both her father and grandfather—church elders—had raped her. The father raped her shortly after she tearfully confided in him that she’d been raped by her grandfather. “The family that prays together”, etc. …)

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The department head also announced that if it was discovered that anyone was using birth control pills, she would be fired immediately. And that if anyone didn’t like it, well, she could just resign.

So I went back to my desk and typed up a resignation letter. I also took another piece of paper, drew a swastika and taped it to the department head’s door. (What can I say? I was young.)

This was my introduction to the fact that there are these kinds of people in the world. And now the modern Republican party has adopted the untrammeled craziness that was my former department head.

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Fauxrage? I don’t think so.  Is the bill unconstitutional? Yes.  Are there remedies available for women who get trapped by this craptastic bill?  Yes.  Is that the point? NO.

Whelp, guess what campers?  Jan Brewer just signed this monstrosity into law yesterday.  In fact, the version which she signed is actually worse than the originally-introduced version.  The amended version attempts to address the concerns that the bill violates a woman’s privacy by off-handedly stating that the bill does not authorize the “religiously-affiliated employer” to obtain an employee’s protected health information or to violate HIPAA.

Pffft.

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Setting aside the fact that this bill contravenes President Obama’s birth control mandate, and that all women should have access to birth control coverage, how else is a female employee supposed to attest that she seeks contraception coverage for purposes unrelated to birth control without providing her employer private medical information?  It’s not possible.  Simply tossing in boilerplate language to the legislation does nothing to undo the damage and the grave privacy concerns that this bill poses.  Moreover, while the bill makes its way through the Courts, untold number of women will be affected by this horrible legislation.  This legislation puts women in the position of choosing either employment or lack of preventive healthcare services.  It is nothing short of outrageous.

And finally there’s this: The bill’s sponsor, Debbie Lesko, is the ALEC Arizona Public Sector Chair, a role which requires “working to introduce model legislation.”  Funny, that.

But I’m sure I’m just one of the untold internet bullies harassing poor wittle ALEC, right?

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Stop the planet.  I want to get off.

UPDATE 1: I must admit that the title is alarmist. Given the seriousness of the topic — and my tendency towards the snark and hyperbolic notwithstanding — it’s the responsible thing to do.  Similarly, I retract my claim that it would be “impossible” for a female employee to seek contraception coverag without providing medical information to her employer. I think “unlikely” is a more appropriate word. Nonetheless, I encourage you to read my summary of the bill at TeamU Wiki and my comments to this post here and here.  That information combined with Susie Madrak’s post should explain why I am not going to change the title of this post, despite my acknowledgment that it is alarmist.

UPDATE 2: The bill was amended before Brewer signed it to remove the requirement that an employee who wants to use contraception for non-birth control purposes submit a claim to her employer. The bill now requires that the employee submit a claim directly to the insurer. Thus the “interrogation about contraception” no longer holds true, except to the extent that such disclosure might result (water-cooler gossip, and the like) despite the boilerplate “don’t violate HIPAA” language. More on my thoughts on that here. Thank you to commenter Shelley Powers for her assistance in the comment section.

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UPDATE 3: HIPAA does not apply to employers. So the bill does not specifically permit employers to interrogate employees about their contraception use, but the bill as amended (requiring employees to submit a claim to the insurer as opposed to the employer) does not fix the problem with the original bill. In my view, the bill could result in employers interrogating employees about contraception use. Thank you to @DrJenGunter for clarification.

TO COMMENTERS: I encourage this type of discussion and I want to make sure that I am interpreting these bills properly, but I cannot promise that I will return to this comment section as often as I should.  So please register for TeamU (check the sidebar) and drop questions and comments in the forums.  I’ll definitely see them and respond there as quickly as I can.

***Here’s a link to the TeamU Arizona wiki page.
***Here’s a link to the #TeamU Wiki page for H.B. 2625.

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