For Immediate Release: Monday, April 5, 2021
SB 523 cosponsors, including NARAL Pro-Choice California, Essential Access Health, and National Health Law Program, release joint statement
California — Today, the California Senate Committee on Labor voted to advance SB 523, the Contraceptive Equity Act of 2021. SB 523 would expand and modernize California’s birth control laws and benefits and ensure greater contraceptive equity statewide, regardless of an individual’s gender or insurance coverage status. The bill was introduced by state Sen. Connie Leyva (D-Chino) and is cosponsored by Essential Access Health, NARAL Pro-Choice California, and the National Health Law Program.
If enacted, SB 523 will make contraceptive coverage without cost-sharing gender-neutral, require coverage of over-the-counter birth control options, expand contraceptive coverage benefits to state employees and individuals enrolled in University of California health plans, and clearly prohibit employers from discriminating against their employees based on their contraceptive and reproductive health decisions.
In response to SB 523 advancing out of committee, the bill cosponsors Essential Access Health, NARAL Pro-Choice California, and the National Health Law Program released the following joint statement:
“Birth control is essential health care. After four years of attacks on reproductive health during the Trump administration, California has the opportunity and responsibility to proactively reduce barriers to contraceptive care. All Californians should be able to choose the birth control that works best for them, regardless of their income level, gender identity, health insurance plan, or where they live or work.
We applaud Senator Leyva for being a true champion for reproductive freedom and look forward to partnering with her to advance SB 523 and expand contraceptive access and equity to millions of California workers and communities this session. A person’s ability to control when or whether they become pregnant is critical to individual and community health, equality, and economic security. We are proud to co-sponsor SB 523 to level the playing field on behalf of Californians of all backgrounds, and ensure that everyone can get the birth control method they want, when they need it.”
State Sen. Connie Leyva said:
“SB 523 will help ensure equitable access to contraception, as well as solidify California’s rightful place as a national leader in reproductive freedom. Californians deserve to be able to decide—for themselves—if and when they have children. Even after four years of attacks on reproductive health care by the federal government, California remains strong in its commitment to reducing barriers to contraceptive care and creating greater health equity. I am proud to stand with this determined coalition of contraceptive equity leaders that remain committed to bringing this critical bill across the finish line.”
Birth control access is a core value in California. A poll conducted by Lake Research Partners in 2019 shows that 9 out of 10 likely voters statewide believe it is important for an individual to have access to the type of birth control that works best for them, regardless of their ability to pay for it.
Despite California leading the nation in enacting policy innovations that protect and expand access to reproductive health care, disparities in reproductive health outcomes persist among Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), including disproportionate rates of unintended pregnancy and infant and maternal mortality. The COVID-19 public health emergency has further exacerbated the structural inequities that disproportionately affect youth, low-income people, and communities of color in accessing birth control services.
A recent report by the Guttmacher Institute revealed that 38% of Black women and 45% of Latinas, compared to 29% of white women, now face difficulties accessing birth control as a result of the pandemic. Women with lower incomes were also more likely than women with higher incomes to report having experienced delays or having been unable to get contraceptive care because of the pandemic (36% vs. 31%).
For over 50 years, NARAL Pro-Choice America and its network of state affiliates and chapters have fought to protect and advance reproductive freedom—including access to abortion, contraception, and paid family leave—for every body. NARAL is powered by its more than 2.5 million members from every state and congressional district in the country, representing the 7 in 10 Americans who believe every person should have the freedom to make the best decision for themselves about if, when, and how to raise a family.