After four years of debate between women’s groups and the Catholic Church, New York became the 20th state in the US to require that insurers and employers provide contraceptive coverage for women. A bill passed last month in the New York legislature mandates health-insurance coverage for birth control, mammograms and screenings for cervical cancer and bone disease. Gov. George Pataki has said he will sign the bill, which could go into effect Jan. 1, according to the Rochester Democrat-Chronicle. Massachusetts and Arizona passed similar bills this year that will go into effect in 2003.
While the Feminist Majority and other women’s groups continue to fight for contraceptive coverage in all 50 states, bills have been introduced in both the US House and the Senate to require coverage of this basic health need in insurance plans that fall under federal law. With the price of birth control pills estimated at $30 a month plus doctor’s fees, studies show that women of reproductive age spend about two-thirds more than men on out-of-pocket healthcare costs, according to an ABC News report. Meanwhile, more than half of Viagra prescriptions received health insurance coverage just weeks after the anti-impotence drug hit US markets, ABC News reports.
The Catholic Church opposes contraceptive coverage requirements on religious grounds. Several states, including New York, include a “conscience clause” in their laws to allow for religious institutions to be exempt from mandated coverage. In New York, however, the conscience clause was deemed by the Catholic Conference to be too narrow – the church may challenge the newly approved measure in court.