The 8th Circuit US Court of Appeals ruled yesterday that Union Pacific Railroad’s exclusion of birth control from its health plan does not constitute discrimination against women under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. In a 2-1 ruling, the majority wrote that “Union Pacific’s health plans do not cover any contraception used by women such as birth control, sponges, diaphragms, intrauterine devices or tubal ligations or any contraception used by men such as condoms and vasectomies… Therefore, the coverage provided to women is not less favorable than that provided to men.”
US Judge Kermit Bye, the lone dissenter, objected to this logic because Union Pacific’s contraception policy only affects preventative care for women. Because men cannot become pregnant, it makes sense that the health care plan does not cover pregnancy prevention for men. Therefore, Judge Bye found that while the policy might be “officially gender neutral,” it is still discriminatory, according to the Associated Press.
Furthermore, Union Pacific offers coverage for preventative medications used only by men, in addition to Rogaine for hair loss and Viagra for erectile disfunction.
“Todays’ ruling is an outrageous step backwards for women’s health. Birth control is basic health care, and health insurance should cover it,” Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement. She urged members of Congress to support the Prevention First Act, which would, among other things, require health plans to cover birth control.