Leyva Bill Expanding Contraceptive Equity Passes Senate Labor Committee

SB 523 Makes Contraceptive Equity Laws Gender Neutral, Increases Access to Care

Monday, April 5, 2021

SACRAMENTO – Building on the fundamental notion that Californians should have prompt access to birth control when they need it, the Senate Labor, Public Employment and Retirement Committee today approved Senate Bill 523 authored by Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) that will expand and modernize birth control access in California—and ensure greater contraceptive equity statewide—regardless of an individual’s gender or insurance coverage status.

Specifically, SB 523 seeks to make California’s contraceptive laws and benefits more equitable by making them gender neutral. The measure also aims to require coverage of over-the-counter birth control options to increase access to time-sensitive care, expand contraceptive coverage benefits to millions of Californians enrolled in state employee and university and college health plans, and clarify that employers in California may not discriminate or retaliate against their employees based on their personal contraceptive or reproductive health decisions.

“SB 523 will help ensure equitable access to contraception, as well as solidify California’s rightful place as a national leader in reproductive freedom,” Senator Leyva said.  “Californians deserve to be able to decide—for themselves—if and when they have children. Even after four years of attacks on reproductive health care by the federal government, California remains strong in its commitment to reducing barriers to contraceptive care and creating greater health equity. I am proud to stand with this determined coalition of contraceptive equity leaders that remain committed to bringing this critical bill across the finish line.”

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.  Additionally, 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.

Despite the progress 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).

Jointly sponsored by Essential Access Health, NARAL Pro-Choice California, and the National Health Law Program, SB 523 is also supported by Access Reproductive Justice, American Association of University Women California, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists District IX, Business & Professional Women of Nevada County, CaliforniaHealth+ Advocates, California Nurse-Midwives Association, Citizens for Choice, Courage California, End Hep C SF, End the Epidemics, Los Angeles LGBT Center, National Association of Social Workers, California Chapter, National Center for Youth Law, National Council of Jewish Women, Plan C, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California and Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice of California.