Expanding Access to Contraceptive Care Without Cost-Sharing for Millions of Californians
Sacramento, CA – Today, Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB 523 – the Contraceptive Equity Act of 2022 into law. Authored by Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino), SB 523 will expand and modernize birth control access in California. In the face of dangerous and alarming attacks on reproductive health access across the country, California has taken bold action to protect and strengthen our state’s contraceptive equity laws. SB 523 will require coverage of over-the-counter birth control options and vasectomy services without cost-sharing, expand contraceptive coverage benefits to state employees and individuals enrolled in university or college health plans, and clearly prohibit employers from discriminating against their employees based on their contraceptive and reproductive health decisions on or after January 1, 2024.
Bill Author, Senator Connie M. Leyva said:
“Now signed into law, SB 523 will help ensure equitable access to contraception, as well as solidify California’s rightful place as a national leader in reproductive freedom. It is critical that Californians be able to decide—for themselves—if and when they have children, so the ‘Contraceptive Equity Act of 2022’ is a vital step forward to 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.”
In response to the bill’s signing, SB 523 co-sponsors Essential Access Health, NARAL Pro-Choice California, and the National Health Law Program released the following statements:
“Today, California moves 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.”
“With the Governor’s signature, California is now slated to have the most comprehensive and inclusive contraceptive coverage requirements in the nation. The signing of SB 523 is a critical and important step to address the ongoing need for greater access to birth control that is timely and potentially life-changing health care 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 applauds Senator Leyva for her leadership in introducing this comprehensive and robust approach to advance contraceptive equity, and we thank Governor Newsom for signing this important measure into state law.”
“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 NARAL Pro-Choice California Director Shannon Olivieri Hovis. “We applaud Senator Leyva for being a true champion for reproductive freedom and we thank Governor Newsom for signing this essential legislation into law.”
In this video, Liz McCaman Taylor discusses California’s Contraceptive Equity Act of 2022, which was just signed into law!
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).