A bill that would allow Idaho employers to ignore the federal contraception mandate in their insurance plans survived efforts to kill it Monday.
Rep. Carlos Bilbao (R-Emmett) is a devout Catholic and the bill’s sponsor and is mirror of efforts led by Catholic Bishops and Evangelical Christians to make the religious exemption from coverage contraception in employer-provided health insurance plans available to employers other than religious organizations. Their proposal would allow employers the ability to opt out of coverage of any condition they had a moral objection to, for any reason and without justification.
Missouri and Arizona are considering similar legislation.
The bill apparently has broad support among Idaho Republicans but was killed over concerns that as proposed the bill was just too sloppy. Rep. Fred Wood (R-Burley), a doctor, laid out the argument for killing the bill. He argued it imposes the religious beliefs of employers on their workers; would likely result in a costly, losing legal fight against the federal government; and is so broadly written it could be used to erect costly barriers to prevent women from receiving appropriate treatment for debilitating ocular migraines and endometriosis, among other conditions.
Oral birth control pills are “used in the treatment of a lot of disease processes that have absolutely nothing to do with contraception whatsoever,” said Wood. “They are expensive. Even at Walmart prices, they probably run about $600 per year.”
Then, in considering the exemption, the committee did something Congress did not: it allowed a woman impacted by their decision testify. Erin Capener, a Boise resident, told the committee she takes birth control pills to treat polycystic ovary syndrome, whose symptoms include cysts and fertility problems. “Birth control gives you the ability to not only counter those side effects, but also ensure your fertility later on,” Capener said.
Instead of killing the measure, Idaho Republicans will work on a bill that would avoid these unintended consequences. No word yet if they’ve discovered or are considering universal single payer health coverage as the way to most generously protect religious liberty and assure women have access to the critical health care services they need.
Photo from brains the head via flickr.