SACRAMENTO,CA – California State Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) has introduced SB 523, the Contraceptive Equity Act of 2021 – to 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.
Despite 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. The COVID-19 public health emergency has only exacerbated the structural inequities that disproportionately affect access to birth control for low-income people and BIPOC communities. A recent report by the Guttmacher Institute revealed that 38 percent of Black women and 45 percent of Latinas, compared to 29 percent of white women, face difficulties obtaining 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 being unable to get contraceptive care because of the pandemic (36% vs. 31%).
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.
SB 523 seeks to expand on and modernize existing contraceptive coverage policy in the state. If enacted, the measure 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 state university health plans, and create a pathway to no-cost birth control for Californians who may be denied contraceptive coverage by a religiously-affiliated employer.
SB 523 is co-sponsored by Essential Access Health, NARAL Pro-Choice California, and the National Health Law Program.
“I am excited to be working with this committed coalition of reproductive health advocates to help expand access to birth control across the state. It is vital that all Californians have equitable access to contraception, since we know that certain groups—like people of color and low-income individuals—have limited access to these essential health care services. SB 523 will modernize contraceptive equity laws in California by making sure that an individual’s income, gender or insurance status does not impede their ability to promptly access the critical care they need and deserve,” said Senator Leyva.
“Contraception is a critical preventive health service, and people of all genders should be able to choose the birth control that works best for them, regardless of the logo on their health insurance card,” said Elizabeth McCaman, Senior Attorney, National Health Law Program. “Senate Bill 523 ensures that Californians will have greater access to the health care they want. We are thrilled that Senator Leyva is pursuing this pro-active policy, and stand ready to work with her in taking the next big step toward contraceptive equity in the state.”
“Birth control is essential health care. After four years of attacks on reproductive health during the Trump administration, it’s time to refocus on solutions that level the playing field and ensure that everyone can get the birth control method they want, when they need it, and without delay,” said Amy Moy, Chief External Affairs Officer at Essential Access Health. “We applaud Senator Leyva for being a true family planning champion, and look forward to partnering with her to advance SB 523 and expand contraceptive access and equity to more California workers and communities this session.”
“Unfettered access to birth control, whether for family planning or other health reasons, is critical to our health, equality, and economic security,” said NARAL Pro-Choice California Director Shannon Olivieri Hovis. “Being able to decide when and if to have children is central to reproductive freedom, and every body should have access to birth control—no matter their income level, gender identity, where they live, work, or get their insurance. NARAL is proud to co-sponsor SB 523 on behalf of our more than 295,000 members and the countless other Californians who deserve equitable access to contraception and will benefit from this essential legislation.”