The Big Lie is a falsehood so audacious that readers react by thinking, "Wow, that's so unbelievable that it must be true - no one would make up something like that." The Hysterical Left has decided on just that strategy with respect to proposed legislation in Arizona. I first saw a retweet of a tweet from ZDNet's Ed Bott. He tweeted:
WTF, Arizona? Seriously, WTF? AZ legislature passes bill allowing any employer to fire employees who use birth control.
The tweet included a link to the ACLU web site. That got my attention. The claim sounded dubious, but okay, politicians do a lot of stupid things, so I bit. I followed the link to the ACLU post:
Use Birth Control? You're Fired!
Note that the ACLU doesn't include a hyperlink to the bill itself. Hmm, odd, no? But hey, Google's your friend, so a few moments brings me to the Puffington Host, which not only provides the link but has an assessment of the bill that is at least a tiny more honest:
Under current law, health plans in Arizona that cover other prescription medications must also cover contraception. House Bill 2625, which the state House of Representatives passed earlier this month and the Senate Judiciary Committee endorsed on Monday, repeals that law and allows any employer to refuse to cover contraception that will be used "for contraceptive, abortifacient, abortion or sterilization purposes." If a woman wants the cost of her contraception covered, she has to "submit a claim" to her employer providing evidence of a medical condition, such as endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome, that can be treated with birth control.
Moreover, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, the law would give Arizona employers the green light to fire a woman upon finding out that she took birth control for the purpose of preventing pregnancy.
Reading the relevant parts of the bill itself, one finds that
- The employer or the plan issuer needs to register a religious or moral objection to covering contraceptives
- A covered employee may still have the plan reimburse her for a prescribed contraceptive if the purpose is medical.
Nowhere does it say that the employer can fire an employee for using birth control. On the other hand, I can easily imagine that an employer can fire an employee for making a false claim. The ACLU (and the Puffingtons, Ed Bott, and anyone else who took this seriously) should be ashamed for pushing the Big Lie.
I will say that I disapprove of the legislation, but only because it doesn't go far enough. States all have laws similar to this one, that mandate that insurance policies cover certain things. Some states are worse than others, but all take a paternalistic view toward those who buy insurance. Employers (for example) can read policy coverages and exclusions, and can pick a policy that balances cost and coverage for their employees. (Often employers offer an array of plans, allowing employees to pick a plan that best suits their coverage and budget needs.) One reason insurance is so expensive is that these mandates are treated as though they are free when, in reality, the insurer passes on the cost of every one of them. I would like to buy a plan that is lower cost and covers only catastrophic events - things I could not afford to pay for by myself, but occur with relatively low frequency. Others might like the peace of mind that comes with a more expensive plan that covers the employee more fully, so that there are fewer unexpected medical bills. Instead, every state insists, to a greater or lesser degree, that everyone buy the second plan.
More generally, I'm appalled at the view that grown women need to have Uncle Sam spring for contraceptives. The left's latest cause célèbre, Sarah Fluke, is 30 years old an in a prestigious law school, but thinks she is owed payment for her sex life. How childish. She lied about the cost of contraception - claiming that it was "over $3000" over the course of a law program - when a little research showed she could buy a monthly prescription for oral contraceptives for about $10, no insurance company involved. Yet somehow Georgetown's lack of coverage for her is evidence of a "war on women." Grow up already, Sarah. I'll stay out of your "reproductive choices" (as the current phrase goes) if you don't ask me to pay for those choices.
Addendum: Bryce Covert at The Nation, opines that employers should embrace contraceptive use by their employees, as delaying (or eliminating) child-rearing encourages workers to invest in job skills (citing a study co-authored by one of my econ professors many years ago, Claudia Goldin). The article is refreshingly free of the hysteria of the ACLU piece, even as it disapproves of the legislation. But it's a funny sort of world in which sexual desire, and hence the need for contraception, is an immutable part of human nature, but maternal (or paternal) desire is something that can and should be controlled. Miss Covert may find that employers who embrace child-rearing by their employees are able to attract a wider range of job candidates and/or have a happier and more productive work environment.