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Letter: Contraceptive And Pregnancy-Related Treatment Exemptions To NY State Senate’s Women’s Health Bill

Re: “Legislature Still Divided Over Women’s Health Bill” (Jan. 29, 2001)

The New York Times reported (Jan. 29, 2001) on a bill adopted by the state Senate that is designed to provide women with equitable and expanded health-care coverage. Unfortunately, the bill contains a significant exemption that allows insurance companies and employers to refuse coverage for contraceptive and pregnancy-related treatment if such treatment conflicts with the religious beliefs of such companies.

In some circumstances, individuals should retain the right to conduct themselves in accordance with their religious or conscientious beliefs. But, business corporations are a different matter. When corporations enter the marketplace to offer services that are primarily commercial and secular in nature, they have an obligation to provide services in accordance with all laws of general applicability.

A corporation could not, for example, refuse to provide services to individuals of a particular race or religion, even if such refusal rests upon some religiously-driven attitude. Similarly, an insurance company should not be permitted to decline coverage out of some religious objection to the particular services at issue. The Senate bill was wrong to recognize such an exemption and to thereby diminish the right of women to full and fair health-care coverage.


Donna Lieberman
Interim Executive Director

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