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Union Pacific Appeals Ruling on Birth Control Coverage

By Kelley Weiss

Kansas City – Union Pacific Railroad is asking the 8th Circuit Court to overturn a previous ruling forcing them to provide contraceptive coverage to female employees. The appellate court's decision could set a precedent on whether companies have to provide contraceptive coverage or not. KCUR's Kelley Weiss reports.

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One plaintiff who sued Union Pacific Railroad for denying health coverage for prescription contraceptives is 32-year-old Kenya Phillips who lives near Kansas City. This summer a federal judge in Nebraska ruled in favor of Phillips saying the railroad company discriminated against women by not paying for contraceptives.

Union Pacific is challenging the decision in the St. Louis 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. James Barnes, spokesperson for Union Pacific, says the company covers women's contraceptives for medical necessities but not for "family planning" purposes.

James Barnes: "The railroads and unions have always felt that the health plan that excluding contraceptive coverage was legal and that we complied with the law."

The Planned Parenthood attorney representing the plaintiffs, Roberta Riley, says the company is singling out women.

Roberta Riley: "Union Pacific provides comprehensive coverage of healthcare and prescriptions to treat and prevent all medical conditions except the prevention of pregnancy and that is discriminatory."

Riley says she expects the three-judge panel to rule on the case in the next few months.

Funding for health care coverage on KCUR has been provided by the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City.

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