ACLU Letter Thanking Senators Reid, Clinton, Murray and Menendez For Their Support of State Contraceptive Equity Laws

The Honorable Harry Reid
528 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Hillary Clinton
476 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Patty Murray
173 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Robert Menendez
502 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senator Reid, Senator Clinton, Senator Murray, and Senator Menendez:

We write to convey the American Civil Liberties Union’s strong support for your leadership in seeking to amend the Health Insurance Marketplace Modernization and Affordability Act of 2005 (S. 1955) to ensure that state contraceptive equity laws would remain intact.

Your amendment sought to prevent gender discrimination in insurance coverage and to advance reproductive freedom.   Recognizing that providing contraceptive coverage is an important step in correcting gross gender inequities in health care, twenty-five states have already passed such laws or regulations requiring contraceptive equity.  Your amendment would prevent those insurance providers subject to S.1955 from refusing to comply with these state laws, and thus ensure that women’s access to contraceptives is protected. 

Currently, women are forced to bear a heavier financial burden for health care than men primarily because many health care insurance providers refuse to cover contraceptives.  Studies have shown that women of reproductive age often pay 68 percent more out-of-pocket for health care than men, in large part because of the failure of health plans to cover contraception. Given this inequity, both the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and a federal district court in Washington state (Erickson v. Bartell Drug Co.) concluded that excluding coverage for prescription drugs that are used overwhelmingly by women -- such as contraception -- constitutes unlawful sex discrimination.

Moreover, providing insurance coverage for contraceptives is sound health-care policy.  A recent report found that 52% of the unplanned pregnancies each year occur to the 11% of women who were not using a birth control method during the month they became pregnant.  (Abortion in Women’s Lives, Guttmacher Institute, www.guttmacher.org/pubs/2006/05/04/AiWL.pdf).    The elimination of financial barriers to effective contraceptive services will reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, and ultimately, the number of abortions.   Lack of insurance coverage forces many women to choose less expensive and less reliable methods of contraception, which increases the likelihood of unintended pregnancy.

The ACLU thanks you for sponsoring this important contraceptive equity amendment.   It is a crucial safeguard for women's rights and reproductive freedom.

Sincerely,                                                                                     

Caroline Fredrickson, Director                                                                

Gregory T. Nojeim,
Associate Director and Chief Legislative Counsel

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