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Copyright (c) 1998 Washington Law Review
Washington Law Review


April, 1998

73 Wash. L. Rev. 363


Sylvia A. Law *


Abstract: Unintended pregnancy is a serious problem in the United States. Most private insurance plans do not pay for contraception even though they pay for other prescription drugs and devices. This Article argues that this pattern constitutes sex discrimination and is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. It discusses the reasons this issue has been neglected and suggests ways federal and state officials might remedy this common form of gender discrimination.
More U.S. women confront unintended pregnancy than women in nearly every other developed country. One reason is that most employment-based health insurance programs in the United States exclude payment for contraceptives from otherwise comprehensive coverage for prescription drugs and medical services. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA), prohibits discrimination in the provision of employee health benefits "on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions." 1 This Article considers whether the exclusion and limitation of coverage for contraceptive services in employment-based insurance programs violates the PDA.

Part I explores the incidence of unintended pregnancy and the medical, fiscal, social, and personal costs associated with it, and considers the ways in which lack of insurance coverage for contraception contributes to the problem of unwanted pregnancy. Part II describes patterns of delivery and financing of contraceptive services in the United States. Part III argues that the PDA prohibits employers from discriminating against women by ...
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