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Take the pill, get fired?

Take the pill, get fired?

Posting in Government

Sorry ladies, your boss can now pass judgement on what you get up to behind closed doors.

Under a new law that is currently being proposed in Arizona, employers would possess the power to demand proof from female employees that if they have been prescribed contraception, and whether it is being prescribed due to sexual activity.

The Arizona House Bill 2625 allows employers to deny paying for health insurance coverage for contraceptives on the basis of religious beliefs.

Within current Arizonian law, insurance that covers other prescription medications is required to cover the cost of contraception. Under the controversial ruling, if employees want the cost to be covered on insurance, then proof of prescription can be demanded.

If your employer holds beliefs that include no sex before marriage, for example, then they can refuse to pay for the pill -- unless it has been prescribed for non-sexual purposes, such as hormone control or to regulate heavy periods. If it is for 'contraceptive, abortion or sterilization purposes', then female employees may have to foot the bill themselves.

The bill was penned by Glendale State Representative Debbie Lesko, which has caused surprised in some quarters. Some critics say it is an invasion of privacy, and that as a woman, Lesko should have understood the ramifications of the bill not only on a business level, but by merging religious belief with work, the bill has the potential to give employers the right to know about personal and embarrassing medical conditions -- an invasion of individual privacy.

That, in itself, many would consider unacceptable -- unless it affected the employees' work performance.

Under the Arizona House Bill 2625, female employees will be required to pay for their birth control up front. It is then for the employer to decide if they will be reimbursed.

According to the sponsor of the bill, it is intended to protect the First Amendment right to religious liberty and belief. Lesko said:

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

Opposing groups say otherwise. Instead of protecting rights, the bill can be seen to be restricting the rights of female employees. It allows personal, moral beliefs to take priority over the needs of female employees -- as well as force those who cannot afford contraception to reveal potentially embarrassing conditions in the hope of reimbursement.

The majority of women use birth control in order to control what happens to their own bodies. By denying them coverage by health insurance, is the government overstepping the mark by potentially limiting their ability to do so?

Not only this, but the bill also makes it easier for Arizona bosses to fire women for using birth control in order to prevent pregnancy. Employers in Arizona may now have the power to fire someone if they disapprove of their sex lives -- that is a uncomfortable thought.

Theoretically, yes, the firings would be illegal -- but the feeling of moral outrage is strong, especially if you are in a position of power.

How long would it take for a critical boss, infused with the moral high-ground, to find an excuse to fire a female based on one of the most personal aspects of their lives -- which by law employers could be entitled to know?

You may not tell your parents what you get up to, Arizona, but you may need to prepare yourself to keep your boss informed.

Image credit: Sarah/Flickr

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Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure