The Maryland Catholic Conference offers this testimony in SUPPORT of Senate Bill 96. The Catholic Conference represents the public-policy interests of the three (arch) dioceses serving Maryland, the Archdioceses of Baltimore and Washington and the Diocese of Wilmington, which together encompass over one million Marylanders.
SB 96 requires an insurer, nonprofit health service plan, or health maintenance organization that provides hospital, medical, or surgical benefits to provide coverage for instruction by a health care practitioner on “fertility awareness-based methods.” With the exception of a grandfathered health plan, a carrier may not apply a copayment, coinsurance requirement, or deductible for this coverage. The bill applies to all policies, contracts, and health benefit plans issued, delivered, or renewed in the State on or after October 1, 2017.
Fertility awareness-based contraception, including Natural Family Planning (NFP), is an umbrella term for certain methods used to achieve and avoid pregnancies. These methods are based on observation of the naturally occurring signs and symptoms of a woman’s fertile and infertile phases, without the use of drugs, devices, or surgical procedures to prevent pregnancy.
The Maryland Catholic Conference supports SB 96 because it ensures open access to fertility awareness-based contraceptive counseling, consistent with the open access to drug and device-based contraception that is already ensured under federal and state law. Passage of this bill allows women who seek to make an informed decision regarding which contraception method she will utilize to have full and open access to all methods, including drug- and device- free options.
It is for these reasons that the Maryland Catholic Conference respectfully urges a favorable report for SB 96. Thank you for your consideration.