California Prohibits Discrimination Due to Reproductive Health Decisionmaking
California Prohibits Discrimination Due to Reproductive Health Decisionmaking

In response to recent Supreme Court decisions and laws in other states outlawing abortion, California passed a number of new laws designed to protect reproductive rights in the state. These include bills to prohibit a person from being criminally or civilly liable for a pregnancy loss, to prohibit a health care provider from releasing medical information on abortion care in response to out-of-state subpoenas, and to prohibit law enforcement cooperation with out-of-state entities related to a lawful abortion. California voters also approved Proposition 1 in November, which creates a state constitutional right to an abortion.

Among the highlights of these laws is Senate Bill 523, the Contraceptive Equity Act of 2022. SB 523 prohibits employment-related discrimination based on reproductive health decisionmaking and expands birth control access by requiring health plans to cover certain over-the-counter birth control beginning in 2023. In addition, SB 523 amends section 12921 of the Government Code to make the opportunity to seek, obtain, and hold employment without discrimination because of reproductive health decisionmaking as a civil right. Reproductive health decisionmaking is now included among race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, disability, and other protected categories.“Reproductive health decisionmaking” is defined as including, but not limited to “a decision to use or access a particular drug, device, product, or medical service for reproductive health.” SB 523 also makes the right to obtain housing without discrimination because of reproductive health decisionmaking a civil right.

In addition to the employment and housing discrimination expansion, SB 523 also expands coverage of contraceptives by a health care service plan contract or health insurance policy issued, amended, renewed, or delivered on and after January 1, 2024. Health insurers would be required to provide point-of-sale coverage for over-the-counter FDA-approved contraceptive drugs, devices, and products at in-network pharmacies without cost sharing for consumers.

Assembly Bill 2091 prohibits health care providers from releasing medical information related to an individual seeking or obtaining an abortion in response to out-of-state requests or subpoenas, or to law enforcement. AB 2091 does not prevent the disclosure of information for medical purposes, but applies if the requesting entity or individual seeks to interfere with the person’s rights under California’s Reproductive Privacy Act.

Assembly Bill 1242 is designed to protect an individual’s fundamental right of privacy with respect to reproductive decisions, including the right to choose to bear a child or obtain an abortion. Specifically, AB 1242 prohibits any state or local law enforcement agency from knowingly arresting or knowingly participating in the arrest of any person for performing, supporting, or aiding in the performance of an abortion or for obtaining an abortion, if the abortion is lawful in this state. The bill also prohibit any state or local agency from cooperating with or providing information to an individual or agency from another state or a federal law enforcement agency regarding a lawful abortion. The bill prohibits judicial officers, court employees, authorized attorneys and others from issuing a subpoena in connection with a proceeding in another state regarding an individual performing, supporting, or aiding in the performance of an abortion in this state, or an individual obtaining an abortion in this state, if the abortion is lawful in this state. The legislation will serve to prevent other states from obtaining cell tower data from California companies to track women traveling to California to seek an abortion. Finally, AB 1242 will prohibit out-of-state agencies from serving California companies with a search warrant to procure individual users’ data, unless the investigators attest that the evidence is not related to an inquiry into abortion services.


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