A stalled Senate bill that would end co-pays for abortions in California was pushed back up to being an active bill for the next session this week following the Supreme Court deciding not to block some abortion restrictions, the Roe v. Wade decision possibly being overturned soon, and the state recently announcing that they will be a sanctuary state for women wanting to get an abortion.
Senate Bill 245, authored by Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), would not allow health care plans or disability insurance policies from imposing a deductible, coinsurance, copayment or other similar cost-sharing requirement on abortion and abortion-related services. Utilization management and utilization review on abortion services by health care companies and plans would also be prohibited under the bill.
Essentially, SB 245, also known as the Abortion Access Act, would eliminate out of pocket costs for Californians wanting abortions, ranging from $300 to $900 per procedure depending on the type of abortion they seek.
The bill had passed the Senate earlier this year 31-8, but after a tougher than expected Assembly subcommittee vote, subsequent hearings were suspended in favor of other legislation. It was officially placed on the suspense file in July.
But, with abortion legality being threatened, state lawmakers are now bringing the bill back, pressing that the matter is now urgent and will be a crucial part of California’s new status as an abortion sanctuary state.
“Given what we have seen unfold in the last three months, I think there is a new urgency for this bill,” said Senator Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) on Friday. “I am optimistic it will get a good hearing in the Assembly and hit the governor’s desk. The state’s current tax surplus can help with expanding abortion services but funding is not limited to taxpayer dollars. Nonprofits and community organizations have for years raised money to help women who can’t afford abortions or need travel money to obtain one. This is a call to action for those who support abortion and reproductive rights to double down on the support we have given for decades.”
Support for, opposition against SB 245
While the bill is supported by the majority of lawmakers and Planned Parenthood, many health providers and insurers oppose the bill due forcing the copay back on health providers. Anti-abortion groups are also strongly against the bill, with faith-based groups leading the charge against the bill. Many Catholic lawmakers have received additional pressure from faith groups.
“There were a lot of calls and e-mails coming from all sorts of church groups earlier this year,” said “Dana,” a State Capitol staffer to the Globe on Friday. “We usually see more than usually when something opposed by religions comes up, but we had more than the usual amount of that much this time too.”
“So we are expecting even more now, since a lot of groups are fighting extra hard right now with Roe v. Wade on the ropes for the first time in a long time. They don’t want to see California become a safe harbor for abortions when most of the rest of the country begins to block them.”
With at least 26 states ready to ban all or most abortions, reports indicate that, if it happened, California would see a dramatic 3,000% increase of people traveling into California for abortions.
SB 245 is planned to be reintroduced next month in the state legislature and is expected to be “fast-tracked” into passing before more abortion law restrictions can come into play.