Arizona Lawmaker Tries to Silence the Haters, I Pray for Great Cactus Uprising of 2012

If you are from Idaho or Alaska, and found yourself feeling sad and embarrassed after yesterday’s post, have no fear! Arizona, the state of my childhood, insane temperatures, and psycho politicians is not going to go down without a fight. While perusing the internets today, I came across not one, but TWO examples of Arizona legislators who apparently do not like other uppity lawmakers stealing their spotlight, and are throwing their hats in the crazy ring.

(Sidebar: I acknowledge that I use the word “crazy” a lot. I’m sorry, but I don’t feel like I have much of a choice. I also use parentheses a lot, but that’s because I love them).

I’ll start with Debbie Lesko, who many people recognize as the mastermind behind HB 2625, which opponents claimed would require women to prove to their employers that they were taking birth control for reasons other than, well…birth control. Endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, all covered. How progressive! Not wanting to get pregnant? Oh. Yeah, you’re fired.

The outrage over this bill was nothing surprising. Obviously this kind of legislation is an insane invasion of privacy, and even though it passed in the House (no I’m not kidding), it’s doubtful it ever would have made it into law – even Senator McCain said so. But after the uproar, Lesko attempted to defend her position by claiming that it was misinterpreted, that she has nothing against contraceptives, and that MOST employers PROBABLY wouldn’t have taken advantage of the measure anyway. Yes, “probably” is the word I want to hear in situations like this.

Her justification was that the bill was intended to be similar to the infamous Blunt Amendment – allowing all employers, regardless of if they are religiously-affiliated or not, to opt out of certain insurance provisions if they had moral or religious objections to them. Women who still insisted on getting insurance to pay for their whorish ways could take it up with their insurance companies, but the way the bill was written, it would require these women to prove what this insurance reimbursement was for by allowing their employers to view their medical records. Since the original intent of the bill, argued by Lesko herself, was to allow employers to object to providing insurance for things they are morally against, this ambiguous wording left the door wide open for potential discrimination on the part of employers. If a woman worked for someone who opposed covering her birth control, but decided she wanted it covered by her insurance anyway, she would have to release her medical records to her employer, who would see that she was using it for reasons deemed “morally objectionable” by many. What would stop this employer from firing her because her sex life offends him/her? There is nothing in the bill to protect the employee from her employer.

Debbie Lesko is arguing that she was misunderstood. Critics are saying that even if the bill wasn’t intended to allow this type of discrimination (which almost no one actually believes) it is, at the very least, horribly written. Luckily (?) Lesko pulled the bill from consideration and is rewriting it to appease all the haters.

Even if Lesko didn’t intend for this bill to have such a gaping loophole – which, by the way, I find hard to believe because if you work for the government and it is part of your job description to write bills, you’re probably aware when you are leaving a loophole large enough for a Mack truck –  its amended form is still pretty awful. The Blunt Amendment clearly wasn’t very popular, seeing as how it failed, but she decided to give it another shot. Arizonans are nothing if not scrappy. We kill six scorpions before breakfast.

It’s safe to say that her attempt backfired. But, being scrappy, she did not take this lying down. Arizona Democrats (we exist!) organized a news conference, calling the bill “asinine” and saying that Republicans have “fundamentalist, Taliban-like religious beliefs.” (Insert fist pump of joy). Democratic State Senator Linda Lopez (D-Tucson), one of my new favorite people, said: “Tea party Republicans are launching an all-out attack on women’s health and women’s rights.” I know we’ve all already established that, but I am just so excited a politician from Arizona said those words.

Guess who attended this news conference? None other than Lesko herself, who lurked in the back, calling Lopez and others who spoke “liars” before seizing the microphone in a not-at-all-crazy attempt at defending herself. She claimed that “this bill is not about limiting women’s rights, but about protecting employers’ religious freedom,” even though by doing one she is doing the other, and apparently to her, employers’ perceived religious freedoms are more important than women’s rights.

I don’t think any organization in American should be able to deny a woman access to contraceptives, but one of the many things I have learned over these past few months is that laws like this already existed in this country, allowing religious institutions to opt out of doing so (Arizona since 2002). I guess if I have to pick my battles, I, as a non-religious person, would just choose to not work for any sort of religious organization. I find this unfortunate, but a woman can’t claim ignorance going into the situation. What really grinds my gears is that Lesko, and Senator Roy Blunt, decided to up the ante by bringing their religious crusade directly into my life, and my uterus. I don’t care at all if my boss is religious. That is their business. What I don’t appreciate is a lawmaker telling them they have a right to get into MY business. Can’t we all just leave each other the hell alone?

Deep breath.

I promised you two examples of Arizona’s insanity, didn’t I? Since this post has gone on a bit longer than I intended, I promise I will make this last one quick for you.

Terri Proud is an Arizona state representative and proud (heh) sponsor of HR 2036, a bill that would ban abortion after 20 weeks on the medically-disproven assumption that at that point, fetuses can feel pain. It appears that a disgruntled citizen wrote an email to Proud, expressing their disagreement with this bill. Proud’s response was as follows:

“Personally I’d like to make a law that mandates a woman watch an abortion being performed prior to having a “surgical procedure”. If it’s not a life it shouldn’t matter, if it doesn’t harm a woman then she shouldn’t care, and don’t we want more transparency and education in the medical profession anyway? We demand it everywhere else.

Until the dead child can tell me that she/he does not feel any pain – I have no intentions of clearing the conscience of the living – I will be voting YES.”

What is clear is that this email was, in fact, written by her. What is not clear is what exactly is going through her brain that makes her think that this is acceptable. Unless she plans on making everyone who wants to undergo any kind of surgery watch the procedure first  – which I’m pretty sure, even though I don’t have an M.D., opens up a giant Pandora’s Box of legal issues – I can’t really figure out how she would justify her stance. Oh wait, here’s her explanation:

“Women should be aware of any surgical procedure “especially when a foreign object is extracting from a delicate organ.”

Grammar issues aside, I guess if Terri Proud is ever hiking, and falls face-first into a cactus, someone should probably show her a video of doctors extracting cactus needles from an eyeball. Just so she is fully aware.

Cacti of Arizona Unite!

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