California One Step Closer to Expanded Contraceptive Coverage for Millions Statewide

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Amy Moy / 415.518.4465 / amoy@essentialaccess.org

Assembly Labor Committee Approves Contraceptive Equity Act 5-1

Joint Statement from SB 523 cosponsors Essential Access Health, NARAL Pro-Choice California, and National Health Law Program

California – The Contraceptive Equity Act of 2021 advanced out of California’s Assembly Labor and Employment Committee today in a 5-1 vote, bringing the state one step closer to strengthening the ability of Californians to receive timely and affordable access to birth control. 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, 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 Labor Committee who voted in favor of this important bill, and are proud to partner with Senator Leyva to advance SB 523 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:

“By enacting SB 523, California will solidify our state’s rightful place as a national leader in contraceptive equity and reproductive justice. It is crucial that we continue to reduce and eliminate barriers to contraceptive care, as well as work hard to ensure greater health equity for all Californians.  As the proud author of this important and timely measure, I thank my Assembly colleagues that stood today in support of ensuring better access to birth control across the state, particularly for individuals and communities that continue to have limited access to this critical health 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 male 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 success. 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 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).