Montana Politics

Oct 27, 2010 4:56 PM by Marnee Banks (KXLH Helena)

Planned Parenthood sues Montana over teen contraceptive coverage

Planned Parenthood is suing the state of Montana over contraceptive coverage.

Healthy Montana Kids, formerly called CHIP, provides health care services to uninsured children up through age 18, but it does not provide contraceptives if they are used to prevent pregnancy.

Planned Parenthood says this discriminates against women based on their gender.

Stacey Anderson of Planned Parenthood said, ""We brought this lawsuit on behalf of our patients across the state, approximately 33% of whom are women seeking contraceptives to prevent unplanned pregnancy."

Planned Parenthood says the state is violating a woman's right to privacy because it is interfering with a young women's ability to make medical decisions about her health. During the 2009 Montana Legislative session,

Representative Chuck Hunter of Helena sponsored a bill which would have included contraceptive coverage in CHIP, but that bill died in committee. Hunter said, "We pay for prenatal care in CHIP. We pay for the delivery of babies in CHIP. We pay for postnatal care in CHIP, but we don't pay for the benefit that would help prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place. It just made no sense."

Hunter says unplanned pregnancies cost Montana taxpayers about $18 million a year, and adds, "The cost both socially and financially is pretty large. For a very small amount of money to provide a benefit to prevent all those thing - I think people need to be aware of those costs."

But not all lawmakers agree with Hunter on how to address the issue. MT State Senator Rick Laible of Darby serves on the interim committee which oversees the HMK program and said, "I think it's inappropriate for the state to provide contraceptives for children. And as I have said earlier if Planned Parenthood believes that it is important that children receive free contraceptives then they should provide it."

Currently, Healthy Montana Kids Plus covers contraceptive care for women who are at 135% of the poverty level; Planned Parenthood is using this lawsuit to try expand that coverage for women up to 250% of poverty level.

The hearing date is set for next May.

Click here to read the complaint filed by Planned Parenthood (PDF).

Click here to read the answer to the complaint from the state (PDF).