SB 523 cosponsors, including NARAL Pro-Choice California, Essential Access Health, and National Health Law Program, release joint statement
California — Today, the California Senate Health Committee voted to advance SB 523, the Contraceptive Equity Act of 2021. SB 523 would 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. The bill was introduced by state Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) and is cosponsored by Essential Access Health, NARAL Pro-Choice California, and the National Health Law Program.
If enacted, SB 523 will make contraceptive coverage without cost-sharing gender-inclusive, require coverage of over-the-counter birth control options, expand contraceptive coverage benefits to state employees and individuals enrolled in health plans of public and private colleges and universities, and clearly prohibit employers from discriminating against their employees based on their contraceptive and reproductive health decisions.
In response to SB 523 advancing out of committee, bill cosponsors Essential Access Health, NARAL Pro-Choice California, and the National Health Law Program released the following joint statement:
“Essential healthcare must include access to birth control and every person in California deserves equitable access to contraceptive care. Today’s vote in the Senate Health Committee is another welcome step forward in proactively reducing barriers to birth control and making contraceptive equity a reality for millions under state law. We thank the members who voted for the health and reproductive freedom of all Californians, regardless of their income level, gender identity, health insurance plan, or where they live or work. We are proud to partner with Senator Leyva to advance SB 523 and ensure Californians of all backgrounds can get the birth control method they want, when they need it.”
State Sen. Connie M. Leyva said:
“SB 523 will help ensure greater contraceptive equity statewide by prioritizing the ability of Californians to receive timely access to birth control when they need those vital services. Expanding the availability of prompt and quality contraceptive care is particularly important to reduce health disparities in reproductive health outcomes for people of color, low-income Californians and young adults. I appreciate the tremendous support garnered by SB 523, as well as the strong coalition of contraceptive equity leaders that are working alongside me to increase health equity in California.”
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 a woman* to have access to the type of birth control that works best for her, regardless of their ability to pay for it.
Despite California leading the nation in enacting policy innovations that protect and expand access to reproductive healthcare, disparities in reproductive health outcomes persist among Black, Indigenous, and people of color, including disproportionate rates of unintended pregnancy and infant and maternal mortality. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the structural inequities that disproportionately affect youth, people with low incomes, and communities of color in accessing birth control.
A report by the Guttmacher Institute revealed that 38% of Black women, 45% of Hispanic* women, and 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%).
(*This language reflects the official language used in the survey instrument and/or report)