Leaders from CA Legislative Women’s Caucus, Reproductive Health & Rights Groups Tout Women’s Health Legislation
SACRAMENTO --Whether it is the recent US Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision or efforts in other states to restrict women’s health and rights, the nation continues to march backward when it comes to women’s access to reproductive health care.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, a national authority on women’s reproductive health, more state restrictions were enacted during 2011-13, than were passed in the entire previous decade. And while efforts seem to be curtailing, already 13 states have adopted 21 new restrictions in 2014 alone.
But here in California, we are different. Our state has a long history of supporting women and expanding access to reproductive health care.
“California provides a startling contrast to the rest of the nation, especially in the area of women’s health,” said Asm. Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, Chair of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus. “Over the past two years our state has bucked this regressive trend and this year we again look to pass three bills that will not only protect, but EXPAND access to reproductive health care.”
The three bills for California women include:
Senate Bill 1053 (Mitchell) – This bill will ensure access to the full range of contraceptive methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration for all women in California without cost sharing, delays or denial of coverage.
Senate Bill 1094 (Lara) – This measure would help maintain community access to crucial hospital-based services such as reproductive health care by increasing the Attorney General’s authority and time to review hospital mergers.
Senate Resolution 55 (Jackson) – In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, SR 55 affirms the rights of women to control their reproductive health care.
In an effort to promote these three important bills, close to 50 activists and advocates of women’s health joined California Legislative Women’s Caucus leaders in a morning press conference, dubbed the #CAbills4women event. Emceed by Nourbese Flint, program manager for Black Women for Wellness (BWW), the press conference was sponsored by Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, California Family Health Council, BWW, NARAL Pro-Choice California, ACLU, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, National Women’s Political Caucus of Orange County, National Health Law Program and other women’s health and rights organizations.
“Let’s not forget that 99 percent of women use birth control at one time in their lives – it’s basic health care for women of reproductive age,” said Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles. “That’s why I authored SB 1053, the Contraceptive Coverage Equity Act, because women deserve access to a full range of contraceptive methods without having to pay out-of-pocket costs.”
"The Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision was an alarming step backwards for women's health. Decisions about birth control should be between a woman and her health care provider. Neither her employer or health plan should have a say in this private medical decision," said Julie Rabinovitz, President and CEO of California Family Health Council. "That's why we urge the California Legislature to continue leading the way to protect and expand fair and consistent contraceptive coverage for women by passing SB 1053 - the Contraceptive Coverage Equity Act."
Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, vice-chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus, introduced SR 55, as California’s affirmation that the state supports women and women’s health. Jackson’s bill is a direct response to the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling stating that closely held corporations cannot be required to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees if the corporations' owners have religious objections to contraception.
“As a state which respects and upholds the rights of women, we have a duty to be a national leader in promoting access to reproductive health care. Through SR 55, we are reaffirming to Congress and the nation, that unless women have 100% control over their bodies they will never fully have control of their lives,” Sen. Jackson said.
Another important piece of legislation for women’s health is SB 1094, authored by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D- Bell Gardens. The bill would give the state Attorney General more authority and more time to review hospital mergers and consolidations to ensure that access to reproductive health care is protected for communities being served by the hospital. The bill stems from recent acquisitions where religiously-affiliated hospitals took over operations of local community facilities and refused to provide a full scope of reproductive health care including access to birth control and abortion.
“I am proud to stand with Planned Parenthood in pushing for bills that support women, including my bill that will allow the Attorney General to further protect access to crucial healthcare services for communities across the state,” Sen. Lara said. SB 1094 is sponsored by the Office of the California Attorney General Kamala Harris.
“We believe that SB 1094 is important to ensure full transparency for communities where local hospitals choose to merge or consolidate with religiously affiliated health systems. There simply aren’t enough protections in the law to ensure access to comprehensive women’s health care during mergers and affiliates. We will continue to work with all the interested parties to ensure this important bill gets sent to the governor’s desk,” said Kathy Kneer, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California.
“California is rocking on reproductive health, but we can do better!” said Nourbese Flint, program manager for Black Women for Wellness, a Los Angeles-based reproductive justice organization and emcee of the event. “We have a responsibility to the nation to model what it looks like to treat women as full people capable of making decisions about our lives.”