TRENTON – A Senate resolution sponsored by Senators Joseph F. Vitale and Barbara Buono which praises President Barack Obama’s efforts to protect both women’s health and the liberty of religious employers was approved today by the State Senate.
“Through both statewide and national policies, we are making major gains in providing access to affordable health insurance and preventive care to all New Jersey residents,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex. “By including contraception with other preventive measures covered free of charge to Americans, the health of women and their children will be greatly improved. The president’s proposal to require health insurers rather than religious employers to cover the costs of contraception is to be lauded as it provides free preventive care that does not discriminate against women while preserving religious liberty.”
The resolution (SR-57) commends President Obama’s policy that accommodates employers of religious organizations, such as hospitals or universities, who oppose providing contraceptive coverage to their employers as required by the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.” President Obama announced on February 10, 2012 a compromise that would ensure the health of women who work for religious employers that object to providing contraceptive as part of their health plan by requiring instead that their insurers directly offer the coverage free of charge.
The Affordable Care Act and the US Department of Health (DOH) have identified various preventive health care services that must be provided by licensed health insurers to all insured Americans at no additional cost. In the summer of 2011, the DOH determined eight preventive measures for women to be added to this list including annual gynecological visits, screening for domestic violence, HPV and diabetes screenings, and contraception.
In New Jersey, health insurance companies who provide coverage for prescription drugs are already required to cover female contraception. In a 2006 compromise with New Jersey’s religious communities authored by Senator Vitale, religious institutions that have primary ownership of a church or grade school and have bona fide religious objections were exempt from this law. This exemption does not include businesses, hospitals, colleges or charities – regardless of religious affiliation.
“Women’s health is not a special interest, and this resolution applauds the President for calling it what it is: equal rights for citizens, rights to access medical care – whether for reproductive issues or otherwise – that knows no race, color, creed, or gender,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex. “With this bill we send a message that New Jersey respects the judgment of American women; we believe in access to family planning services; we believe in a woman’s right to birth control. This is what we believe. We cannot be complacent. We must take our stand here in New Jersey.”
In 2001, half of all pregnancies were unintended. Women with unintended pregnancies are more likely to receive delayed or no prenatal care, to smoke and drink alcohol while pregnant, and to be depressed or experience domestic violence during their pregnancy. Children born from unintended pregnancies are at a greater risk of preterm birth and low birth weight, both of which raise the chances of health problems and developmental disabilities.
Contraception is also used to treat conditions ranging from irregular periods, premenstrual syndrome and benign breast disease to pelvic inflammatory disease, functional cysts and migraine headaches. Some contraception medicines have also been known to lower the risk of certain ovarian cancers.
According to a Keiser Family Foundation poll released in February, 63 percent of Americans support the federal requirement for private health insurance plans to cover the cost of birth control. And according to the Centers for Disease Control, 99 percent of American women have used some form of birth control in their lifetime.
The resolution passed the Senate with a vote of 26-11. A copy of the resolution will be filed with the Senate Secretary and transmitted to President Obama.