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New York’s top court upholds rule requiring health plans to cover abortion

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New York’s top court upheld a state rule on Tuesday requiring health insurers to cover medically necessary abortions.

The Court of Appeals rejected an argument from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany and other religious groups that a state rule requiring health insurance companies to cover medically necessary abortions violated their First Amendment rights. 

When the Department of Financial Services passed the rule mandating abortion coverage in 2017, it included an exemption for religious employers. But the plaintiffs argued that the rule too narrowly defined a “religious employer,” leaving it open to interpretation that could force some groups to cover medically necessary abortions in contradiction with their beliefs.

Chief Judge Rowan Wilson wrote that the state had the authority to set criteria describing a religious employer, thus upholding the rule. For example, he wrote, an individual employed by a Catholic church and an individual employed by a soup kitchen affiliated with the Catholic church that serves all people might be subject to different abortion coverage policies.

The decision has implications for a state law that codifies mandatory coverage of medically necessary abortions in 2022 after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The legal challenge brought by the religious groups challenged the insurance regulation, not the law. However legal experts said that if the court ruled in favor of dismantling the insurance regulation, it could have paved the way for opponents to challenge the state’s law too.

New York State Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement Tuesday that the decision “is a win for all New Yorkers and for our most basic right to make decisions about our own bodies.”

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Amanda D'Ambrosio , 2024-05-21 22:05:59

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