A.9957, Cahill: In relation to expanding contraceptive insurance coverage

Published on March 5th, 2018

Memorandum of Opposition

The above-referenced legislation, requested by the Attorney General, would expand current law to require increased insurance coverage for contraception, abortion-causing drugs, and voluntary sterilization. The New York State Catholic Conference opposes this measure.

In 2002, New York State lawmakers passed the “Women’s Health and Wellness Act” which requires insurance plans with prescription coverage to cover FDA-approved contraceptive drugs and devices, and provides insufficient protections for religious employers.

The legislation now before you would go further by mandating cost-free contraceptives, requiring that a 12-month supply of contraceptives be covered at one time, and including emergency contraception (EC), the so-called “morning-after pill.” We believe that enabling such large amounts of prescription medication, particularly in such high doses as emergency contraception, to get into the hands of young people is irresponsible and dangerous public policy.

This bill would further expand access to emergency contraception by allowing midwives to prescribe EC, allowing pharmacists and nurses to dispense EC without a patient-specific prescription, requiring insurance coverage for any form of EC without cost-sharing of any kind, and requiring state DOH education and outreach about EC to school educators. Such policy would provide girls as young as 11 or 12 years old easy access to these powerful drugs without parental knowledge or physician oversight. As a matter of state law, many products sold by pharmacies, e.g. tobacco and non-prescription allergy medicine, are restricted to consumers 18 years of age and older.

Medical experts and the FDA agree that emergency contraception can work in various ways. It can act to inhibit or delay ovulation, and thus prevent conception. But it can also act to prevent an already-fertilized egg from implanting in the uterine wall, destroying a developing human embryo. This is early abortion, and it is morally abhorrent to many New Yorkers.

We further oppose this bill because it fails to provide religious liberty protections for employers who may have objections to financing insurance coverage of drugs they find morally objectionable. The legislation keeps in place the inadequate 4-part legal definition of “religious employer” which fails to protect charitable organizations, hospitals and schools sponsored by religious organizations, as well as private organizations. These entities would be forced by this bill to pay for insurance coverage they find objectionable.

Moreover, the language of this legislation creates problems even for those religious employers who do qualify for protection under the 4-part religious exemption. The bill prohibits insurance plans from imposing “restrictions or delays” with regard to “timely access” to contraception, a standard that may not be possible for religious employers which are in the process of obtaining a religious exemption and notifying enrollees.

For these reasons, the New York State Catholic Conference opposes this legislation and urges a negative vote.

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