After the Republican sponsor of a controversial Arizona contraception bill hijacked a Democratic news conference and called her opponents "liars" on Wednesday, heating up an already contentious battle over the legislation, her Democratic colleague has responded, saying he was appalled by her behavior.
House Bill 2625, which passed the state House of Representatives and will now go before the Senate, would allow Arizona employers to refuse to cover the cost of contraception for women who plan to use it for non-medical reasons. In order to have their birth control prescriptions covered, those women would have to "submit a claim to the corporation along with evidence that the prescription is not in whole or in part for a purpose" the employer objects to -- which means she would have to prove to her boss that she has endometriosis, ovarian cysts, or some other medical concern that necessitates birth control pills. The bill also allows a woman's employer to charge her an administrative fee to process her claim.
Democratic opponents of the bill called it "asinine" at the news conference, saying it would require women to provide their employers with personal, sometimes embarrassing medical information. But the bill's sponsor, state Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Glendale), grabbed the microphone and said the Democrats were lying.
"My bill does one thing and one thing alone," Lesko said. "It allows an employer with religious objections to opt out of that mandate. It does not allow the employer to know anything about their employee's use of any type of medications. This has been a lie repeated over and over again by the Democrats."
State Rep. Matt Heinz (D-Tucson), a medical doctor who was speaking at the conference, told HuffPost Friday he was appalled by Lesko's behavior.
"We weren't even physically off of the podium, and she was pushing her way toward it," he said. "It was a breach of protocol and really demonstrated a lack of decorum. It's an extremist tactic for an extremist measure."
Heinz, the only practicing physician in the state legislature, said that he read the bill and fully understands what it does: it requires doctors to sign a form and submit information from the patient's personal medical file to a non-medically trained corporate employee or boss.
"So if I'm a woman, and I have an employer in Arizona who wants to object to providing this, I not only have to go through the indignity and invasion of revealing my private health care information to my employer, but I also have to pay the corporation to look at my claim to have my prescription medication covered," he said. "So literally, I can be charged for being discriminated against. Is this not insane?"
Lesko said the word "corporation" in her bill is actually supposed to refer to the woman's insurance company, rather than her employer, and that she is planning to introduce a new amendment to clarify that.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) urged the Arizona legislature to reject the bill on Sunday. "I am confident that that legislation will not reach the governor's desk, and if it did it would be vetoed," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "It certainly doesn't reflect, in my view, the majority view of the people of Arizona."
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