June 6, 2011 — On Thursday, Helena, Mont., District Judge James Reynolds heard arguments from both sides in a suit seeking to change a state policy that denies birth control coverage for low-income teens enrolled in a state health insurance program, the AP/Albany Times Union reports (Volz, AP/Albany Times Union, 6/2).
Planned Parenthood of Montana Director of Public Affairs Stacey Anderson said the state is violating the rights of young women in the Healthy Montana Kids program based on their gender and their reason for needing birth control. Currently, the state covers birth control for the purpose of contraception for enrollees who qualify for Medicaid but not for those with slightly higher incomes who are enrolled Healthy Montana Kids (Leach, NBCMontana, 6/2). Healthy Montana Kids covers birth control pills for the purpose of reducing acne or menstrual cramps. About 10% of the program's 25,000 enrollees are girls ages 15 to 19.
Planned Parenthood attorney Helene Krasnoff told Reynolds that young women are "exercising their constitutional right to access contraception, and when they are doing that, the state has to treat that choice with neutrality." Krasnoff argued that the state is violating teens' constitutional rights to privacy and equal access (AP/Albany Times Union, 6/2).
Assistant Attorney General Stuart Segrest said the state has a right to not provide certain coverage (NBCMontana, 6/2). "The state may choose not to fund contraception like it may choose not to fund ... chiropractic services," he said (AP/Albany Times Union, 6/2).
Anderson said that providing birth control to more teens will save the state money later on. "If you look at the cost of a year's supply of birth control, it is $300 to $400 on average. You look at the cost of an unplanned pregnancy, which ... Healthy Montana Kids does cover, it's anywhere from $12,000 to $14,000 per birth," she said (NBCMontana, 6/2).
Thursday's hearing was an attempt by both sides to convince Reynolds to make a summary judgment without going to trial. He declined to issue an immediate ruling (AP/Albany Times Union, 6/2).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Melissa Safford, associate editor & policy advocate for reproductive health, National Partnership
Perry Sacks, assistant editor & health program associate, National Partnership
Cindy Romero, assistant editor & communications assistant, National Partnership
Justyn Ware, editor
Amanda Wolfe, editor-in-chief
Heather Drost, Hanna Jaquith, Marcelle Maginnis, Ashley Marchand and Michelle Stuckey, staff writers
Tucker Ball, director of new media, National Partnership