Contraceptive Equity Bill to Modernize Birth Control Access Heads to Governor’s Desk
Amy Moy / 415.518.4465 / email@example.com
Sacramento, CA – Today, the Contraceptive Equity Act of 2022 cleared the legislature and now moves to the Governor’s desk for signature. Authored by Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino), SB 523 aims to expand and modernize birth control access in California and ensure greater contraceptive equity statewide, regardless of an individual’s gender or insurance coverage status. If enacted, the measure will require coverage of over-the-counter birth control options and vasectomy services without cost-sharing and expand contraceptive coverage benefits to state employees and individuals enrolled in university or college health plans.
The measure comes at a crucial time against the backdrop of the U.S. Supreme Court’s dangerous and harmful decision to overturn Roe in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. With abortion no longer federally protected, the need to ensure access to the birth control method Californians want and need, is more urgent than ever.
Bill Author, Senator Connie M. Leyva said:
“SB 523 strengthens the ability of Californians to receive timely access to birth control, as well as reduces barriers to contraceptive care by creating greater health equity across the state,” Senator Leyva said. “This legislation will build on existing measures to help ensure our contraceptive benefits and policies extend to millions more across the state since current law leaves too many individuals and communities without equitable access. Californians must be able to decide for themselves if and when they have children. I thank the determined coalition of contraceptive equity leaders that have worked hard to bring SB 523 to the Governor’s desk. Now SB 523 stands one signature away from becoming law and reducing the ongoing health disparities in reproductive health outcomes for people of color, low-income Californians and young adults.”
In response to the bill’s advancement, SB 523 co-sponsors Essential Access Health, NARAL Pro-Choice California, and the National Health Law Program released the following statements:
“With today’s action, California is one step closer to enacting the most comprehensive and inclusive contraceptive legislation in the nation. We are so fortunate to have legislative leaders who recognize that birth control is essential health care and that ensuring access to fundamental, time-sensitive, and potentially life-changing health care is critical for our individual, family, and community health and well-being,” said Amy Moy, Chief External Affairs Officer and Acting President + CEO at Essential Access Health. “All Californians, regardless of their income, gender identity, health insurance plan, or where they live, work, or go to school need and deserve equitable access to contraceptives without any unnecessary delays or discrimination. Essential Access is proud to continue advancing SB 523 with our statewide partners and Senator Leyva, a true champion on this important issue and we thank her for her ongoing leadership to advance contraceptive equity.”
“Birth control access is crucial to ensuring that everybody has the freedom to decide if and when we start or grow a family. Now that the Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade and MAGA Republicans across the country increasingly refusing to protect contraception—signaling they intend to go after it—California has the opportunity and responsibility to proactively protect access and reduce barriers to contraceptive care,” said Shannon Olivieri Hovis, Director at NARAL Pro-Choice California. “We applaud Senator Leyva for being a true champion for reproductive freedom and look forward to Governor Newsom quickly signing this essential legislation into law.”
"Today's vote moves California one step closer to our expansive vision of contraceptive equity where every person can make their own decisions about pregnancy prevention and where contraceptive care is easily accessible and covered at no cost in all health programs," said Liz McCaman Taylor, Senior Attorney at the National Health Law Program. "This bill ensures that every person in California can access the contraceptive care that works best for them, regardless of their gender, and makes that care even more accessible by extending coverage to over-the-counter birth control options. We also celebrate that this bill makes accessing care easier for students and state employees."
In 2014, California enacted SB 1053 (Mitchell) to require Medi-Cal managed care and health plans to provide access to the full range of FDA-approved contraceptive methods for all insured individuals without cost-sharing, delays or denial of coverage. 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 male birth control methods. 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 success.
Despite this progress, health disparities in reproductive health outcomes continue to persist among Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), including disproportionate unintended pregnancy, infant and maternal mortality, and STD rates. The COVID-19 public health emergency has also further highlighted the structural inequities that disproportionately affect youth, low-income people and communities of color in accessing birth control services. A report by the Guttmacher Institute revealed that 38 percent of Black women and 45 percent of Latinas—compared to 29 percent of white women—now face difficulties accessing birth control as a result of the pandemic. Lower-income women were also more likely than higher-income women to report having experienced delays or having been unable to get contraceptive care because of the pandemic (36 percent vs. 31 percent).