The conservative war on women shows no signs of abating. The last few weeks have given rise to half a dozen bills that try to limit or eliminate a woman’s access to reproductive health care. Just this week, Arizona took up a bill that ups the ante: It would require women to prove to their employer that they are not using contraceptives to avoid getting pregnant. This piece of legislation gets dangerously close to requiring women to tell their employers whether they are sexually active. This bill seems like a particularly large piece of artillery in the war on women — infantilizing to say the least, it means that women would essentially need to turn in a note from a supervising adult before they are allowed to take care of their own health. There are a number of reasons at the individual level that show why birth control should be covered, in addition to the fact that contraceptives helped to shrink the gender pay gap and improve the economy. In fact, the entire debate over how the government should handle women’s health is manufactured. But the battle was on the horizon since the beginning of the year, and now it has arrived.
WHAT ARIZONA’S MEASURE MEANS: The language of the bill stipulates that a woman would have to show her medical records to her employer in order to even be considered for contraceptive coverage. If a woman were using the pill for one of its intended purposes, an employer could choose to stop insuring her, citing “moral objections,” and the woman would have to pay out of pocket for her contraceptive expenses. If an employer finds that the woman has a medical reason to be taking contraceptives (this means the employer would learn of the woman’s ovarian cysts, early menopause, or any number of other medical issues), he can choose to insure her. But if the findings aren’t to his liking, the woman can be dropped. On top of that, Arizona is an at-will employment state, meaning that a boss could possibly fire a woman for denying access to her personal medical history, or if he found something in her records that he did not like. A female legislator, Majority Whip Debbie Lesko, wrote the proposed bill. It was endorsed by Arizona’s Senate Judiciary Committee Monday by a vote of 6-2, and passed by the Arizona House of Representatives.
IT’S HAPPENING EVERYWHERE: The attempts by conservatives to control women’s health seems to be an epidemic these days. Arizona’s bill doesn’t stand alone as far government overreach in the name of religious freedom — in fact it’s not even the only disastrous women’s health bill in the state. In Mississippi, the legislature is looking at legislation that would effectively close the only abortion clinic in the entire state. Kansas is supporting an anti-abortion measure that would cause the Kansas University Medical Center to lose its accreditation. Wisconsin has banned private health insurers from offering abortion coverage. In Idaho, a similar bill would force women to go to crisis pregnancy centers if they wanted an abortion. And Idaho also — along with nine other states– has passed a bill that requires women to have an ultrasound before an abortion.
THE WAR ON WOMEN: A perfect storm of controversy brought about this war on women’s health. Kicked off by the controversy of the Susan G. Komen Foundation pulling its funding of Planned Parenthood, followed shortly after by the Blunt Amendment (which served as a model for Arizona’s “tell your boss why you’re on the pill” bill), then brought into full swing by Rush Limbaugh’s attack on Sandra Fluke (and her attempt to break up the all-male congressional panel), the war has been ramping up for a while. Recently, things have gotten ugly. A Representative from Georgia compared women to animals, saying they should bear a stillborn to term because cows, pigs, and chickens do. But women are fighting back. The women of the Georgia legislature walked out in protest of a law restricting women’s health in their state, and the women of Texas have been rallying against cuts to Planned Parenthood there. Hilariously, some women are using social media to get male legislators as involved in women’s health as they seem to want to be. But while there’s humor, there’s also grave risk. Female legislators have moved their focus to more women’s issues that they fear conservatives may block. Next on the list is the Violence Against Women Act, for which legislators are looking to expand grants to rural women and Indian reservations. Republicans are fighting back. But if they manage to block this measure, then one thing will be clear: It will no longer be a war solely on women’s health.
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