California will eliminate several costs of abortion procedures under a law Gov. Gavin Newsom signed on Tuesday. The law, which will increase monthly insurance premiums, is among the state’s continuing efforts to expand abortion despite the objections of Catholic leaders and others who oppose the procedure.
“Instead of focusing on how to make abortion services more affordable, the legislature should be working on making the cost-of-living more affordable for mothers and caregivers,” California Catholic Conference executive director Kathleen Domingo said March 18 after the California Assembly passed the bill.
“Where is the equitable push for services for mothers who can’t afford to take their child to the doctor when they are sick or for increased benefits for pregnant mothers to ensure their health and the health of their child?” she asked. “Removing co-pays and using taxpayer money for abortion procedures instead of increasing parental support services tells California’s mothers they are less valuable than those seeking abortions.”
The Democratic-controlled Assembly passed the bill last week by a vote of 46-18 on a party-line vote. The California Catholic Conference thanked those who contacted their legislator to ask them to oppose S.B. 245, called the Abortion Accessibility Act. Newsom signed the bill into law March 22.
Insurance co-pays and deductibles can add an average cost of $543 to a medication abortion and $887 to a surgical abortion, the California Health Benefits Review Program has said. The new law eliminates these costs. Abortions will be cheaper, but the costs will be paid by a slight increase to monthly insurance premiums for both employees and employers.
California already requires health insurance companies to cover abortions. The abortion policy research group the Guttmacher Institute estimates that in 2017, 132,680 abortions took place in the state, among the 862,320 abortions in the U.S. that year.
Newsom has pledged to make California a “sanctuary state” for abortion, in light of expectations that the U.S. Supreme Court will modify or reverse precedent mandating legal abortion nationwide.
“As states across the country attempt to move us backwards by restricting fundamental reproductive rights, California continues to protect and advance reproductive freedom for all,” said Newsom. Newsom’s statement also included a statement from his wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom. Both cited the possibility of abortion restrictions advancing in other U.S. states.
Toni G. Atkins, a Democratic State Senator from the San Diego area and State Senate President pro Tempore, also commented on the bill.
“No one should have to make important medical decisions based on a bottom line, especially not time-sensitive, life-altering decisions like having an abortion,” she said March 22. “By eliminating cost-sharing on all abortion services, the Abortion Accessibility Act will help ensure Californians have the freedom to choose what is right for them and their families, regardless of how much money they have.”
California supporters of abortion have joined the Future of Abortion Council to craft state policy on abortion. The council is made up of some 40 California organizations. Its members include seven Planned Parenthood affiliates, three regional ACLU affiliates, and the Office of Gov. Gavin Newsom.
In December 2020, the council released a 14-page report on policy proposals to respond to possible changes if the U.S. Supreme Court revisits Roe v. Wade and other precedents that mandate permissive abortion laws nationwide. Atkins, the Senate’s president pro tempore, wrote a letter introducing the report.
Its recommendations suggest subsidizing travel, lodging, and childcare for people traveling from other states to procure an abortion. The report also recommends an extension of California’s Medicaid coverage of abortion to include low-income patients from other states who would qualify for coverage if they were residents.
Other recommendations include scholarships and student loan assistance for medical students who agree to perform abortions in rural parts of California. Some proposals have been included in the draft state budget, which allocates some $20 million to support the state’s “clinical infrastructure of reproductive health care services.”
California’s requirement that health insurance cover abortions has prompted some lawsuits and federal complaints from churches and others which object to the coverage. The Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services had ruled this mandate to be a violation of federal law.