Oklahoma Senate panel passes bill to ignore federal contraceptive insurance law
BY BARBARA HOBEROCK World Capitol Bureau
Thursday, February 21, 2013
OKLAHOMA CITY — Employers in Oklahoma could opt not to include contraceptives and abortions in employee insurance plans under a measure that secured passage by a Senate committee Thursday.
The measure, Senate Bill 452 by Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, passed the Senate Business and Commerce Committee by a vote of 9-0 with no debate and now heads to the full Senate.
“Notwithstanding any other provision of state or federal law, no employer shall be required to provide or pay for any benefit or service related to abortion or contraception through the provision of health insurance to his or her employees,” the bill says.
Under the federal Affordable Health Care Act, employee group insurance plans are required to cover contraception unless the business offering the benefit meets the conditions of being a religious organization, said Mike Rhoades, Oklahoma Insurance Department deputy commissioner of life and health insurance.
Jolley said the measure is the result of a request from a constituent, Dr. Dominic Pedulla, an Oklahoma City cardiologist who describes himself as a natural family planning medical consultant and women’s health researcher.
Pedulla says he is morally against contraception and abortion. He said he had to give up his small group health plan because the only plans available in the state required coverage for contraception and sterilization. He and his family were on the plan and had to find more expensive insurance elsewhere.
“Every small group plan forces you to choose those options,” Pedulla said.
Women are worse off with contraception because it suppresses and disables who they are, Pedulla said.
“Part of their identity is the potential to be a mother,” Pedulla said. “They are being asked to suppress and radically contradict part of their own identity, and if that wasn’t bad enough, they are being asked to poison their bodies.”
Studies show that women using contraceptives consider pregnancy more unwanted than wanted, he said.
Another Oklahoma City doctor, Eli Reshef, medical director of the Bennett Fertility Institute, noted that depriving women of contraception increases the likelihood of abortion.
“If one does not have access to contraceptives, unintended pregnancies can occur,” and “with unintended pregnancies, abortions will increase,” Reshef said. “Half of all unintended pregnancies will end up as an abortion.”
Ryan Kiesel, ACLU of Oklahoma executive director, said that “by denying a woman access to contraceptive coverage and other insurance coverage dealing with reproductive health care, you make it that much more difficult for a woman to control her own economic future.”
Read more of this story in Friday's Tulsa World.
In this 2011 photo, Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, speaks at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City. This legislative session Jolley introduced Senate Bill 452, which would let employers in the state opt not to include contraceptives and abortions in employee insurance plans. The Oklahoman file