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Religious Institutions Sue to Halt Insurance Coverage for Contraceptives

Catholic and Protestant institutions in New York refuse to give up the fight, despite a bill mandating health-insurance coverage for birth control, mammograms and screenings for cervical cancer and bone disease, taking effect at the start of this year. The religious institutions, including eight Roman Catholic bishops, filed a lawsuit Monday with the state supreme court, alleging that the Women’s Health and Wellness Act, sponsored by Assemblywoman Deborah J. Glick (D-Manhattan) and signed last September by Gov. George Pataki (R), unconstitutionally forces them to advocate practices counter to their religious principles. Despite an exemption for religious organizations that “primarily employ and serve members of that faith,” opponents charge the clause is inadequate. Catholic hospitals and schools, of which there are 800 and 40, respectively in New York, still must meet the requirements, reported the New York Times. Catholic-run institutions employ at least 200,000 women in the state. Last fall, New York became the 20th state to require contraceptives coverage in insurance plans. Massachusetts and Arizona passed similar bills taking effect this year.

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.

Sources:

Kaisernetwork.org 1/2/03; NY Times 12/31/02; Newsday 12/31/02