COMMENTARY | The Arizona Legislature is working on a bill that, if passed, would allow any employer to opt out of covering contraceptives for their employees. Employees could seek reimbursement for non-pregnancy-related usages — but then the employer would be allowed to ask her why she is using it. To put it lightly, this is absurd.
The idea that someone’s employer should be allowed to ask them private medical questions seems like a violation of doctor-patient confidentiality, especially about things that might be personally embarrassing or hard to discuss. It’s already difficult enough to talk about menstruation, so imagine having to tell your employer, “Well, boss, I’m using these pills because I have a really heavy flow. Hey, how’s the wife? She have a heavy flow too?”
It’s embarrassing and, as Arizona mental health worker Liza Love said, “That’s nothing that you, as my employer…have a right to know.” Supporters like Rep. Edie Farnsworth point out that getting reimbursed is optional. But who wouldn’t want to be reimbursed for the cost if they could? By doing so, they’d have to talk about private, personal things to someone they may be uncomfortable saying those things to, which is a ridiculous hoop to have to jump through to get reimbursed. Then of course if they are using it to prevent pregnancies, and their employer objects to that, what happens then? Are they suspended, docked without pay, fired?
Birth control pills can be used to help with many things in addition to providing protection against unexpected pregnancy. All uses of the pill are good uses, even if certain religious folks might not agree based on their individual value system. Frankly, it’s none of their business what other people do with their own bodies. Everyone has the free will to decide what is best for themselves.
Besides, it’s not like we’re seeing state legislatures try to regulate male employees’ use of Viagra. It can be used to treat pulmonary hypertension. Yet in no state is there any bill that would force men to explain to their employers that they’re using it for their blood pressure instead of for purposes that “morally minded” employers might find wrong, such as premarital or extramarital sex.
This is just another cheap attempt to tell women what they can and cannot do with their own bodies, pandering to a subsection of voters for the hopes of re-election instead of working on bigger-picture problems that affect everyone, like unemployment, education, infrastructure and housing.
Emma Harger is a young woman and news junkie living in a state (Georgia) that at times seems to be in a competition with Arizona for doing wrongheaded, illogical things instead of focusing on actual issues affecting its citizens.