For Immediate Release: Tuesday, June 6, 2021
Sacramento—The Contraceptive Equity Act of 2021 advanced out of the Assembly Health Committee today in an 11-2 vote. The bill now advances to the Assembly Appropriations Committee—its last stop before the Assembly Floor. SB 523, authored by Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) and co-sponsored by Essential Access Health, NARAL Pro-Choice California, and the National Health Law Program, seeks to update California’s contraceptive coverage laws. If enacted, the measure will make contraceptive coverage without cost-sharing gender-inclusive, require coverage of over-the-counter birth control options and vasectomy services without cost-sharing, and expand contraceptive coverage benefits to millions of Californians, including state employees and individuals enrolled in university or college health plans. The bill also seeks to clearly prohibit employers from discriminating against their employees based on their contraceptive and reproductive health decisions.
In response to the bill’s advancement, bill co-sponsors Essential Access Health, NARAL Pro-Choice California, and the National Health Law Program released the following joint statement:
“Today’s vote takes us one step closer to ensuring that all Californians can get the birth control they want, when they need it. Birth control is essential health care. All Californians, regardless of their income level; gender identity; health insurance plan; or where they live, work, or go to school, need and deserve equitable access to contraception by law—without any unnecessary delays or discrimination. We thank the members of the Assembly Health Committee who voted in favor of this important bill and are proud to partner with Senator Leyva to advance SB 523 to expand and modernize our state’s contraceptive benefits to make birth control more accessible and affordable for millions across California. After four years of attacks on reproductive health care, it’s time to return on a path of progress.”
Bill Author Senator Connie M. Leyva said:
“For decades, California has been a pioneer in enacting legislation that protects and increases access to birth control, but current law leaves too many individuals and communities without equitable access. SB 523 will build on existing measures to help ensure our contraceptive benefits and policies extend to millions more across the state,” Senator Leyva said. “It is vitally important that we improve health outcomes for all Californians, as well as ensure that they are able to access these important reproductive health care services when and where they need that care.”
In 2014, SB 1053 (Mitchell)—requiring Medi-Cal managed care and most commercial health plans to cover all FDA-approved contraceptive methods without co-pays, cost-sharing, or restrictions like step-therapy or prior authorization—was signed into law. Since SB 1053 was enacted, several states have expanded access to birth control even further by requiring health plans to cover over-the-counter birth control pills, condoms and vasectomies, and other equitable birth control methods on the horizon. Also, in 2016, SB 999 (Pavley)—ensuring that most health insurance plans in California cover a year’s supply of birth control dispensed at once—was chaptered. California was a pioneer in enacting these measures, and, since then, other states have built on the state’s successes. Now California has the opportunity to lead once again on contraceptive equity issues.
In spite of the progress already made in California, health disparities in reproductive health outcomes persist among Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), including disproportionate unintended pregnancy, infant and maternal mortality, and STI rates. The COVID-19 public health emergency has also further highlighted the structural inequities that disproportionately affect youth, people with low incomes, and communities of color in accessing birth control services. A 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.