HELENA – A Senate panel Friday endorsed lifting the ban on using the State Children’s Health Insurance Program to pay for birth control.
The program, which serves children up to age 19, used to cover contraceptives, but Montana is currently one of two states that don’t provide such services, Sen. Christine Kaufmann, D-Helena, told the Senate Public Health, Welfare and Safety Committee.
“This bill seeks to equalize what contraception a wealthy person can have versus a poor person,” said Amanda Arnold with the Montana Human Rights Network. “We see it as very important.”
Committee members endorsed the bill, 6-3, with Republican Sens. John Esp, of Big Timber, Terry Murphy, of Cardwell, and Jerry O’Neil, of Kalispell, voting against it.
It now goes to the Senate floor for further debate.
O’Neil said he believed the cost of providing birth control to young women enrolled in CHIP would be more expensive than paying for births under the program.
“When you have birth control, you tend to go farther in lovemaking,” he said. “We will still have some births and we might have more births when the state is paying for birth control, so I think it’s a bad idea.”
CHIP insures about 13,000 Montana children who live below 150 percent of the federal poverty line.