A New York court of appeals yesterday upheld a state law that required insurance companies to cover contraceptives as part of their drug benefits. The case, Catholic Charities v. Serio, involved the three-year-old Women’s Health and Wellness Act, which required contraceptive coverage along with other women’s preventive health care needs. Ten religiously affiliated organizations challenged the law, despite an exemption for religious organizations that primarily promote the religion and employ members of that religion. The court found that the law “does not target religious practices,” and had an important purpose when considering evidence that insured women otherwise pay significantly more out-of-pocket costs than insured men. Catholic Charities plans to appeal the decision once again.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) praised the decision, and Elisabeth Benjamin, director of NYCLU’s Reproductive Rights Project said in a statement, “This law protects New York women from unfair and discriminatory health insurance practices. In upholding this carefully worded law, today’s decision balances religious freedom and women’s rights to basic health care.”