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Catholic Charities' Opposition to Women's Health Law Is Put to Rest by U.S. Supreme Court

Albany, NY (October 1, 2007)—The U.S. Supreme Court today refused to hear Catholic Charities’ attempt to dismantle New York’s Women’s Health and Wellness Act. The law which has been in effect since January 1, 2003 requires insurance plans to cover women’s health services including osteoporosis exams, prescription contraceptives, and breast and cervical cancer screening.

“The Supreme Court made the right decision today,” said JoAnn M. Smith, president and CEO of Family Planning Advocates of New York State. “New Yorkers will continue to receive the benefits of the Women’s Health and Wellness Act. Women deserve access to reproductive health care, including contraceptive coverage, to help them plan their families and stay healthy.”

Catholic Charities has been defeated by every court to consider their challenge to the Women’s Health and Wellness Act:

 Courts Upholding the Women’s Health and Wellness Act  Decision Date
 New York State Supreme Court, Albany County  November 25, 2003
 Supreme Court of the State of New York Appellate Division, 3rd Dept.  January 11, 2006
 New York State Court of Appeals  October 19, 2006

"This case was a direct challenge to women's access to affordable birth control," said Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards. "Ninety-eight percent of women use birth control during their reproductive lives. Birth control helps women prevent unintended pregnancy and plan their families. It should be settled law that contraception is covered by health plans just like other prescription drugs."

“Birth control is basic health care and women should have access to it,” Smith concluded. “It is inexcusable for a major employer to deny basic health care to women who work for them. Every court to hear this case – all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court – has affirmed the need to include contraceptive coverage in insurance plans.”

The Women's Health and Wellness Act has helped to end discrimination against women in insurance coverage by enhancing access to reproductive health care including contraception. While birth control is the most widely used prescription drug for women of reproductive age, it was routinely excluded from insurance plans. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 49 percent of typical large-group insurance plans failed to routinely cover any reversible contraceptive method. Women of reproductive age were forced to pay as much as 68 percent more for out-of-pocket medical care than men.

To address this discrimination, the Women’s Health and Wellness Act was passed by the New York State Legislature and signed into law in 2002. It has been in effect since January 1, 2003.




Susan Pedo

Published: 10.01.07

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