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Brewer now ‘more favorable’ on contraception bill

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, speaks during an interview from her office, Wednesday, May 9, 2012, at the Capitol in Phoenix. Brewer says a contraception coverage bill now on her desk is improved since when she voiced reservations about an earlier version as being intrusive. (AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer says a contraception coverage bill now on her desk was improved in the time since she voiced reservations about an earlier version as being intrusive.

Brewer didn’t commit to signing the bill, but the Republican governor told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday that her position on the bill is now “more favorable.”

Called a protection for religious freedom by supporters, the bill stirred debate both for its potential impact on women’s health plan coverage and privacy concerns.

National debate about religious freedom and birth control already had been sparked after the Obama administration required that employers must provide contraception coverage under the federal health care overhaul.

As passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature, the bill would generally allow employers formally identifying themselves as religiously oriented organizations to opt out of the state’s decade-old requirement that health plans generally cover contraception.

The current law already allows churches to opt out for coverage of contraception for birth control purposes.

The bill originally would have let any employer opt out of providing health plan coverage of contraception for birth control.

With that narrowing of the bill, “I don’t see a problem with that … if they’re opposed to contraception then they ought to have that right,” Brewer said of employers.

The bill also was changed to specify that employers could not make workers tell employers the workers’ medical reasons for using contraception other than birth control.

Supporters of the bill said it would have allowed employers to require that workers provide that information only to health-plan administrators, not employers themselves, but critics of the bill disputed that.

Brewer in March said that she hadn’t studied the still-pending bill in detail and didn’t have a position on it.

“But I certainly would probably 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 health private issues,” she said then.

Asked Wednesday about criticism that the bill’s current wording was loose enough that employers could opt out of the coverage requirement just by declaring themselves a religiously oriented organization, Brewer suggested during the interview that it might be exaggerated.

“If you don’t like something, you can always find a boogeyman in there,” she said.

Brewer also rejected Democrats’ criticism of the Republican-led Legislature as waging a “war on women” through the contraception bill, one already signed by Brewer to deny government funding to Planned Parenthood for non-abortion services and other legislation.

“But we are the party of women, particularly here in Arizona,” Brewer said, citing the state’s election of female governors and female legislators. “We like women.”

On other pending legislation, Brewer said a negotiated package of business tax cuts had her blessings when lawmakers passed it on the last day of the session. However, she said she won’t review it for signing until Friday.

The tax cuts, which include a phased-in reduction of state income tax on individuals’ profits on investments, are part of a balanced approach to revive the state’s economy by providing opportunities for businesses to grow, she said.

On other topics, Brewer:

— Said she doesn’t identify herself as a tea party follower but shares the conservative movements’ principles calling for smaller government and individual freedom.

— Said her veto of a bill to generally allow guns in public buildings lacking certain security features reflected public unease.

A state Child Protective Services office “is a perfect example where a lot of time emotions run high and to send people in there with guns is not a sensible, thoughtful thing to do,” she said.

— Opposed unsuccessful legislation that would have allowed reimbursement of former state Sen. Russell Pearce for his campaign expenses in a November recall election that ousted him from office.

“I thought probably that it wasn’t a really good idea given the fact that it wasn’t his money that he spent on that recall,” she said, referring to his donated campaign chest.

— Said she wasn’t behind suits recently filed by other Republicans to challenge the state redistricting commission’s maps and processes.

The lawsuits “came in the thick of things with the budget and tax reform, so I don’t know a whole lot about it,” she said, adding later, “I wasn’t consulted by anybody with regards to the lawsuits.”

— Said she regards herself as “the last stop for the people of Arizona” when deciding whether to sign or veto bills on her desk.

“Having been a member of the Legislature, I know that you’re one of 90 people down there, but when you become governor you govern and you continue to govern when everybody else goes home and you’ve got to make sure that the bells are rung and the train is moving so you sometimes have a different look at some of the legislation because you know you’re one that has to make sure that everything … is workable,” she said.

“If you don’t like something, you can always find a boogeyman in there,” she said.

One comment

  1. Politicizing birth control after over 50 years — a non-issue — to divert attention from the most serious problems plaguing Arizona is disgusting. Will remember this in November.

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