March 26, 2012
The Women's Collective, together with the other agencies, wrote members of the Arizona House of Representatives to express concern for the State of Arizona's House Bill 2625.
House Bill 2625 violates the sexual and reproductive rights of women. It repeals a previous Arizona bill that requires health plans covering medication to also cover contraception. Under this law, employers would be permitted to refuse covering any medication that would be used for contraceptive purposes and fire female employees that are using birth control to prevent pregnancy.
You can read our letter below.
The Honorable Debbie Lesko
House of Representatives
1700 W. Washington
Phoenix, AZ 85007
Dear Representative Lesko:
The Women's Collective, together with the undersigned agencies, is writing to express its deep concern for State of Arizona House Bill 2625. The Bill comes within the context of a broader legislative movement seeking to undermine women's access to sexual and reproductive healthcare. We are particularly concerned about the Bill's potential impact on women living with HIV/AIDS.
As written, House Bill 2625 will force some women to disclose private information regarding contraception use to their employers. Such disclosure will severely compromise the health and well-being of women, especially women living with HIV, for the following reasons:
Birth Control can be a Life-Saving Tool for Women living with HIV, House Bill 2625 fails to consider the sexual and reproductive needs of women living with HIV. Many HIV positive women choose to forgo childbirth due to the presumed complications to their health and the health of their unborn children. For these women, contraception is a health protection tool. By obstructing women's access to contraception, House Bill 2625 places HIV positive women at risk of unwanted pregnancies, including pregnancies that may be dangerous to their health and place resultant children at risk of serious health complications.
Women in Violent or otherwise Abusive Relationships
House Bill 2625 ignores the plight of women experiencing sexual violence or abusive relationships. For many women, especially those living with HIV, contraception is an essential tool to protect against unwanted pregnancies that result from coercive domestic relations or sexual violence. House Bill 2625 obstructs access to contraception and therefore places these women at further risk of unwanted pregnancies and likely further abuse. Moreover, the Bill may cause re-traumatization for survivors of sexual violence or abuse if these women are forced to disclose their experiences to their employer.
Erosion of the Doctor-Patient Relationship
House Bill 2625 interferes with the relationship between women and their healthcare providers because the Bill forces disclosure of personal and private information shared between a woman and her provider in the provider's office. As a result, the provider's office will no longer be a confidential space and women will no longer express their health concerns candidly. Confidentiality and candor are critical for women living with or at risk of HIV. Without these safeguards, many health concerns will go undiagnosed and untreated.
Regulation of Men's Sexual and Reproductive Choices
House Bill 2625 appears to target the sexual and reproductive choices available to women, leaving intact the similar options available to men. Such an imbalance violates the fundamental principle of gender equality and undermines decades of struggle to secure equality for our nation's women and girls.
Forced Disclosure of Minors' Health Information
Many minors receive health benefits through a parent's employment-based health insurance plan. For various reasons, a minor may elect to use contraception. As a result of House Bill 2625, this personal decision, which should remain confidential within a family, will now be subject to disclosure and the scrutiny of a parent's employer.
Disclosure of personal sexual and reproductive health information to employers may expose HIV positive women to employment discrimination and further marginalization. In addition, no fail-proof strategy exists to prevent a woman's HIV status from being shared with her coworkers and thereby exposing her to social stigma and potential abuse.
These repercussions are long lasting and will only move society backward by reinforcing archaic and unfounded stigmatization, gender inequalities and discrimination. Not only will the Bill undermine decades of struggle for gender equality, the Bill will effectively divest women of their sexual and reproductive autonomy. Taking account for the aforementioned repercussions of the Bill and the critical nature of sexual and reproductive healthcare, the undersigned respectfully urge you to withdraw your support for this legislation. We also draw your attention to the following online petition in opposition to House Bill 2625.
The Women's Collective
International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS
U.S. Positive Women's Network, a project of WORLD (PWN)
Women Organized to Respond to Life Threatening Diseases (WORLD)
cc: Representative Brenda Barton
Representative John Kavanagh
Representative Justin Olson
Representative Justin Pierce
Representative Frank Pratt
Representative Terri Proud