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New York’s Highest Court Requires Religious Groups to Cover Contraceptives

The New York State Court of Appeals ruled unanimously on Thursday to uphold a 2002 state law requiring all employers, including Catholic and other religious employers, to cover reproductive health services, including offering contraceptives as part of prescription drug coverage. “This is a great day for the women of New York state,” said JoAnn M. Smith, president and CEO of Family Planning Advocates of New York State, which, along with Planned Parenthood Federation of America, submitted an amicus brief in the case. “The urgent need to prevent discrimination was rightly… affirmed by the highest court in the state.”

The law had been challenged by eight Catholic and two Baptist organizations, which “believe contraception to be sinful” and argued that the law “compel[led] them to violate their religious tenets by financing conduct that they condemn,” according to the ruling. Though the law does include an exemption for faith-based organizations that primarily employ and serve people of the same faith, and whose main purpose is instilling that faith in others, the court of appeals ruled that the ten organizations challenging the law did not meet these requirements.

“The court affirmed today that religiously affiliated organizations that employ and serve people of diverse beliefs and provide social services – for example, medical care – do not have a right to discriminate by refusing to cover basic health services for women employees,” said Diana Kasdan, a staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, which filed an amicus brief in the case.

Sources:

New York State Court of Appeals Ruling 10/19/06; Family Planning Advocates release 10/19/06; Kaiser Daily WomenÕs Health Policy Report 10/20/06; ACLU release 10/19/06

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