Contraceptives and St. Vincent | Arkansas Blog

Contraceptives and St. Vincent



St. Vincent Health System does not include birth control options for women employees in its insurance plans because Catholic doctrine stands opposed to contraception, its CEO Peter Banko told the Times recently. Nevertheless, doctors at the St. Vincent Family Clinic at 4202 University Ave., which offers pap smears and "women's health" care, do prescribe contraceptives to their female patients, a call to the clinic confirmed Tuesday. The associated Family Health Pharmacy also stocks contraceptives. The clinic and pharmacies are a business; they could hardly do otherwise.

Spokesman Margaret Preston Dedman, asked about the inconsistency, said today that St. Vincent "will no longer comment on this issue."

Dedman was responding to the Times' question about whether clinics operated by St. Vincent prescribe contraceptives and also whether the hospital's insurance policies had ever covered erectile dysfunction medication for employees. She previously told the Times that policies do not now cover ED meds.

We asked because a caller tells us that the hospital did at one time cover drugs like Viagra and Cialis.

It was coverage of ED that prompted women lawmakers, Republican and Democratic alike, in 2005 to successfully introduce state legislation that became the Equity in Prescription Insurance and Contraceptive Coverage Act. State Sen. Joyce Elliott said it was a matter of "parity."

The act exempts religious institutions whose primary purposes is "the inculcation of religious values," and "employs primarily persons who share its religious beliefs." Banko said employees at St. Vincent "regularly have to attest that they are in compliance" with the ethical standard for Catholic institutions. Our caller, however, claimed not to have been asked by the hospital to pledge compliance on a regular basis.

State Insurance Commissioner Jay Bradford told the Times it's clear to him the hospital meets the first test.

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