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NYCLU Ready To Defend Contraceptive Coverage Mandate In Face Of Lawsuit Announced By Catholic Conference

In response to today’s announcement by the New York State Catholic Conference that various plaintiffs have sued to challenge a state law that would require insurance plans to cover contraception, the New York Civil Liberties Union issued the following statement:

“As a long-time defender of religious liberty and reproductive rights, the New York Civil Liberties Union believes that the contraceptive mandate in the Women’s Health and Wellness Act does not encroach on religious freedom in any way,” said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “We’re confident that the challenged provision—a generally applicable women’s health and anti-discrimination law—will withstand this lawsuit.”

The NYCLU plans to file an amicus brief in support of the law, Lieberman added.

“In enacting this provision, the state Legislature made the laudable decision that eliminating gender discrimination and promoting women’s health are important and legitimate state objectives,” said Lieberman. “Churches and affiliated organizations are not required to promote or dispense contraception. This law simply mandates that insurance plans that cover prescription drugs include contraception.”

“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. “However, it correctly did not exempt those entities—like the lead plaintiff 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 has 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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