NYCLU Vows to Defend Contraceptive Coverage Law Against Religious Coalition's Challenge

Affiliate: ACLU of New York
December 30, 2002 12:00 am

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NEW YORK – The New York Civil Liberties Union today said that it would file a friend-of-the-court brief opposing a challenge by religious groups to a state law that requires insurance plans to cover contraception.

“As a long-time defender of religious liberty and reproductive rights, the NYCLU believes that the contraceptive mandate in the law does not encroach on religious freedom in any way,” said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the NYCLU.

The Women’s Health and Wellness Act, enacted this summer, requires insurers who provide prescription coverage to also cover contraception.

“In enacting this provision, our lawmakers recognized that eliminating gender discrimination and promoting women’s health are important and legitimate state objectives,” Lieberman said. “Churches and affiliated organizations are not required to promote or dispense contraception. This law simply requires insurers whose plans cover prescription drugs to include contraception.”

While the legislature carved out a narrow exemption for entities whose main purpose is to minister religion, said Rebekah Diller, Director of the NYCLU’s Reproductive Rights Program, “the law correctly does not exempt those entities-like the lead challenger in this case, Catholic Charities-that employ and serve diverse populations who may not share a church’s beliefs on contraception. These entities, which operate as health care and social service organizations, rather than as churches, must abide by public, secular rules.”

Diller noted that Catholic Charities brought a similar lawsuit in California, which has been unsuccessful before two courts. That case is currently on appeal before the California Supreme Court.

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