Supporters of controversial contraceptives bill get another shot at lining up votes - East Valley Tribune: Politics

Supporters of controversial contraceptives bill get another shot at lining up votes

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Posted: Thursday, March 29, 2012 4:40 pm

State senators agreed Thursday to give supporters of controversial contraceptive legislation one more chance to line up their support.

On a voice vote, the Senate approved a request by Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, to allow a new vote on HB 2625. That legislation came up two votes short Wednesday of the 16 needed for final approval.

Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, would not comment when asked if she had convinced two lawmakers who opposed the bill a day before to change their minds.

“One step at a time,” Herrod said.

But late Thursday, Herrod sent out an “action alert” to supporters giving them the names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses of five of the seven Republicans who voted against the measure the day before: Adam Driggs, Jerry Lewis, John McComish, John Nelson and Steve Pierce.

“Each senator listed above has been a strong vote for pro-life measures,” she said, including the just-approved ban on abortions after 20 weeks. “We very much appreciate those stands. On this bill, however, they sided with Planned Parenthood.”

Barto would say only that two of her GOP colleagues who had promised to provide the necessary margin of support had not come through. She would not name names.

Proponents could have an uphill fight. Of the Republican senators who opposed the bill on Wednesday, those who agreed to speak with Capitol Media Services said they were sticking with their original decision.

And even if the bill does get approved, Gov. Jan Brewer said Thursday she has not decided whether she would sign it.

The fight surrounds an effort to expand an exemption from a 2002 law which says employer-provided health insurance that covers prescriptions must also include birth control.

Current law exempts churches and certain church-run organizations with a religious objection. This measure would allow any company to cite a religious reason to refuse to include contraceptives in the list of covered prescriptions.

Brewer said she understands the fight.

“I support religious freedom,” she said. “That goes without any question.”

But the governor sidestepped the question of whether an employer’s religious views should be able to trump the medical needs or desires of those of a different faith.

“I guess I will have to determine that when that bill gets on my desk and I will have to read the language,” Brewer said.

“I haven’t seen the bill from its conception, no pun intended,” the governor continued. And she noted that the version Barto is trying to push through the Senate is somewhat different than the initial version.

One of those changes might address concerns that Brewer expressed two weeks ago.

The legislation allows those who need contraceptives for some medical reason other than birth control to pay for the drug themselves and then seek reimbursement. But the language led some to believe the application would have to be made to the employer, a move which would have forced workers to divulge personal information to their bosses.

Brewer said she would “agree with the majority of people that would be a little bit uncomfortable for a woman to have to go to her employer and tell him or her their private health issues.”

Barto made changes to spell out that the request goes to the employer’s insurance company, changes Brewer has not yet seen.

A related question for Brewer and other Republicans was suggested two weeks ago by Sen. John McCain who discussed on Meet the Press whether the focus on social issues by the GOP was alienating some voters. The senator said lawmakers should instead focus on jobs and the economy.

The governor said she understands that.

“I believe jobs and the economy are the number one issue and our number one concern, not only in Arizona but across America,” she said.

Thursday’s vote to let Barto round up the votes comes with no deadline — other than the goal of lawmakers ending the current session before the end of April.

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