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NYCLU Applauds Court Decision Promoting Women’s Health And Ending Gender Discrimination In Insurance Coverage

The NYCLU hailed a decision by a New York State Supreme Court judge upholding a state law requiring insurance companies to include contraceptive coverage in their drug benefit packages.

“We’re gratified that the court understood that this law promotes women’s health and ends gender discrimination in insurance coverage while not infringing on religious liberties,” said Donna Lieberman, NYCLU Executive Director. “The court rightly recognized that organizations like Catholic Charities, that operate in the public world and offer secular, not religious services, ought to play by public rules.”

The law in question, the Women’s Health and Wellness Act, requires insurance companies to cover women’s preventive health care, including mandating that insurance plans which cover prescription drugs also pay for contraceptives. The law exempts religious employers, such as churches, mosques, and temples, whose main purpose is to inculcate religious values and who primarily employ and serve people who share their religious beliefs.

“This is a great victory for the women of New York,” said Rebekah Diller, Director of the NYCLU’s Reproductive Rights Project. “The court’s decision ensures that employers providing secular services and employing people of many faiths will not be allowed to discriminate against their female workers by forcing them to pay substantial out-of-pocket costs for basic health care.”

Ten religiously affiliated organizations challenged New York’s contraceptive requirement — including Catholic Charities of Albany and Ogdensburg as well as other Catholic and Baptist social service organizations throughout the state. The NYCLU, in conjunction with the ACLU, filed a friend of the court brief in favor of the law’s constitutionality.

The New York court’s ruling will protect the rights and health of thousands of New Yorkers. As the court noted,“the record shows that Catholic affiliated secular health businesses employ over 50,000 persons, with health insurance coverage provided to as many as 500,000.”

Furthermore, the court held that “[e]xpanding the exemption would certainly reduce the effectiveness of the [law] in meeting its legitimate governmental purposes” of promoting women’s health and ending gender discrimination.

Judge Dan Lamont issued his decision and order upholding New York’s contraceptive coverage mandate on November 25th.

The case is Catholic Charities v. Serio, Case No. 8229-02. Lawyers on the NYCLU and ACLU brief include Diller and Arthur Eisenberg of the NYCLU and Julie Sternberg, Diana Kasdan, and Louise Melling of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.

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