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Contraception-limiting bill would set a dangerous precedent

Dear Governor Brewer:

As people of faith and religious leaders in our communities, we oppose House Bill 2625. Should HB2625 land on your desk, we urge you to veto this bill. HB2625 is not about religious freedom. In fact, it is just the opposite. This bill allows employers to impose their religious beliefs on their employees.

As faith leaders, we believe existing law is adequate. Arizona statute’s definition of religious employers is limited to entities that primarily employ persons who share the religious tenets of those entities and who primarily serve people of the same religious beliefs.

In addition, this politically motivated bill does not take into account the religious freedom of employees. Even with current amendments, the bill still allows any insurance company or hospital to eliminate contraception coverage for any female employee for religious reasons. As religious leaders in our community, we are concerned that this takes away the religious freedom of female employees.

Ultimately, HB2625 will further limit access to family planning for many women across the state, setting a dangerous precedent. The same people who support this bill claim to want to stop abortions. The truth is, if you want to reduce the number of abortions, you must increase access to birth control, not decrease it. This bill is counter-intuitive to that outcome. We need to make sure that women, regardless of their income level, have access to birth control and family planning services so they can plan for their families and we can reduce the need for abortion.

A poll conducted in 2011 showed that 78 percent of Arizonans support state funding for family planning services, including sex education and counseling services, women’s health services and birth control, for low income women. More than ever, it is clear that the general public wants solutions. Many legislators are consistently out of touch with us and this bill needs to stop at your desk.

HB2625 politicizes women’s health and we believe that the current law does the job. The religious freedom of the employee must be taken into account as well.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

— Rev. John C. Dorhauer, conference minister, United Church of Christ of the Southwest — Rev. Ed Bonneau, senior pastor, Catalina United Methodist Church — Rev. Michael D. Smith, retired, St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church — Rev. Pamela Vice-Parsons, Missionary Baptist Church — Rabbi Mari Chernow, Temple Chai

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