December 12, 2011


New York State

President Barack Obama 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, D.C. 20500 Re: Exemption of Coverage for Contraceptive Methods in Women’s Preventive Health Care Services Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

Dear President Obama: We applaud and encourage you to remain steadfast in protecting all aspects of Women’s Preventive Health Care Services. We urge you not to broaden the exemption of religious institutions to include affiliated universities, hospitals, clinics, and social service agencies from offering insurance plans that cover contraceptives, like birth control, in its preventive services package, which do not charge out-of-pocket costs (e.g. co-pays and deductibles) under this new Act. The proposed Federal religious exemption clause is based on a New York law enacted in 2002, the Women’s Health and Wellness Act, which has withstood constitutional challenge and worked well. Among other provisions, the law mandated the coverage of prescription contraceptive drugs and devices in plans that included coverage for prescription drugs.1 New York’s law has the same criteria for defining which religious employers are exempt as the proposed exemption being debated now.2 The New York State law was challenged by ten religiously affiliated organizations, that were not exempted from providing coverage for contraception in their employee’s health benefit plans. They claimed the law, as applied to them, violated the Free Exercise Clauses of the New York and United States constitutions and the Establishment Clause of the U.S. constitution. These arguments were rejected by New York’s highest court, upholding the lower courts’ decisions that found no constitutional violation in applying the law to the religiously affiliated organizations.3 Allowing access to contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for millions of women with reproductive capacity is intelligent, proactive,
1 2

Laws of 2002, Chapter 554. NY Ins. Law §3221, NY Ins. Law §4303. 3 Catholic Charities of Diocese of Albany v. Serio, (N.Y. 2006) 7 N.Y.3d 510, 859 N.E.2d 459, 825 N.Y.S.2d 653; cert denied, 552 U.S. 816.


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and forward-thinking policy. Employees as patients, in consultation with their health care providers, should be making health care decisions, not employers. Employers do not dictate to employees what they may buy with their paychecks; they should not dictate to them what health care choices to make with their coverage. Broadening the exemption is regressive and would limit the reform that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is intended to achieve. We, the members of the New York State Bipartisan Pro-Choice Legislative Caucus, do not support broadening the exemption, and we urge you to strongly consider our position. Please feel free to follow up with the NYS Bipartisan Pro-Choice Caucus via the office of State Senator Liz Krueger at (212) 490-9535 or at the address listed below.

Thank you for your consideration. Sincerely,

Senator Eric Adams

Senator Tony Avella

Assemblymember James F. Brennan

Senator Neil D. Breslin

Assemblymember Harry B. Bronson

Assemblymember Kevin A. Cahill

Senator David Carlucci

Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz

Senator Thomas K. Duane

Assemblymember Steve Englebright

Assemblymember Sandy Galef

Assemblymember Deborah J. Glick


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Assemblymember Richard N. Gottfried

Assemblywoman Rhoda S. Jacobs

Assemblymember Ellen Jaffee

Assemblymember Micah Kellner

Senator Jeffrey D. Klein

Senator Liz Krueger

Assemblymember Rory I. Lancman

Assemblymember Barbara Lifton

Assemblymember Donna A. Lupardo

Assemblymember Joel Miller

Senator Velmanette Montgomery

Senator Suzi Oppenheimer

Assemblymember Amy Paulin

Assemblymember Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes

Senator Gustavo Rivera

Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal

Senator John L. Sampson

Assemblymember Teresa R. Sayward


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Assemblymember Michelle Schimel

Senator José M. Serrano

Senator Daniel L. Squadron

Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins

Assemblymember Fred W. Thiele, Jr

Senator David J. Valesky.


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