The NYCLU hailed reports that the state Senate and Assembly have reached agreement on a comprehensive women’s health bill to eliminate discrimination in health insurance.
The reported compromise would promote women’s health by requiring health plans to cover preventive care such as contraception, mammograms, and osteoporosis screening. It extends the contraceptive coverage requirement to the broadest number of women while carving out a narrow religious exemption that fully protects religious liberty. The bill had been stalled until this winter over disputes concerning the religious exemption, or refusal clause.
“The narrowly crafted religious exemption, while not constitutionally required, balances the protection of religious freedom with the overriding anti-discrimination and public health goals of the bill,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU. “As an organization dedicated to both reproductive rights and religious freedom, the NYCLU believes the final version of the bill promotes both principles. We call on the Legislature to send the bill to the Governor for his signature.”
Rebekah Diller, Acting Director of the NYCLU’s Reproductive Rights Project, added: “The current legislation allows religious organizations whose primary purpose is the imparting of religious values and who primarily employ and serve those who share its religious tenets to contract for insurance policies without contraceptive coverage. This narrowly confined definition permits institutions such as churches to claim the exemption, while ensuring that entities serving and employing the general public, such as religiously affiliated hospitals, abide fully by the Women’s Health and Wellness Act.”