Bill that Would Reduce Unintended Pregnancies Passes California Senate

Leon's picture

By Leon Kolankiewicz

Leon is an Advisory Board Member and Senior Writing Fellow with CAPS. A wildlife biologist, and environmental scientist and planner, Leon is the author of Where Salmon Come to Die: An Autumn on Alaska's Raincoast, the essay “Overpopulation versus Biodiversity” in Environment and Society: A Reader and was a contributing writer to Life on the Brink: Environmentalists Confront Overpopulation.

In a career that spans three decades, three countries and more than 30 states, Leon has managed environmental impact statements for many federal agencies on projects ranging from dams and reservoirs to coal-fired power plants, power lines, flood control projects, road expansions, management of Civil War battlefields, NASA's Kennedy Space Center operations and a proposed uranium mine on a national forest. He also has worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop comprehensive conservation plans at more than 40 national wildlife refuges from the Caribbean to Alaska.

The writer's views are his own.

June 17, 2016

Nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended or unwanted.

In a bipartisan vote of 28 to 6, the California State Senate approved Senate Bill 999 on May 24. In doing so, it voted to eliminate a key hurdle obstructing consistent access to effective, safe contraception for women. If signed into law, SB 999 would require health plans in California to cover up to a one-year supply of hormonal contraceptives when requested by a woman’s health care provider.

SB 999 would allow physicians and other health care providers to prescribe up to a 12-month supply of self-administered hormonal contraceptives, including birth control pills, the patch and the ring. An estimated 744,000 California women have active prescriptions for such contraceptives.

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One month’s supply of oral contraceptives, a.k.a. birth control pills.

Sen. Fran Pavley, author of SB 999, said:

“This is a smart, proven policy that will improve the lives of California women, reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions, and lower health care costs. For women who work, go to school, raise children and have otherwise demanding schedules, this will eliminate the need for repetitive trips to the pharmacy and reduce gaps in access to birth control.”

One comprehensive survey of 84,401 Medi-Cal patients by the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) with the 12-month option demonstrated that this method led to 30 percent fewer unintended pregnancies (and 46 percent fewer abortions) than those methods which require women to refill their prescriptions every 30 or 90 days. Other studies support these results.

S.B. 999 is opposed by the insurance industry, which argues that some pills will go unused and that this wastage would raise health care costs. That argument apparently proved unconvincing to state senators.

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Many young women have had to worry about an unwanted pregnancy.

One recent analysis by the California Health Benefits Review Program found that SB 999 would improve reproductive health outcomes and also save government agencies, private employers and individual women nearly $43 million a year combined. Among the Review Program’s other findings is that the bill would result in 7,000 fewer abortions each year in California. The Review Program consists of a team of University of California medical researchers responsible for studying the benefits and costs of all legislation that results in a health insurance requirement.

California has long been a leader on the reproductive health front. A couple of years back, for example, I wrote a commentary for the San Jose Mercury News calling attention to the “A+” grade California received in a 50-state “report card” issued by the Population Institute, which investigated reproductive health throughout the country. The U.S. as a whole got just a “C-“, but California had the highest score of all 50 states, 87.2 out of a possible 100. According to the report card and the respected Guttmacher Institute (a research and policy organization promoting sexual and reproductive health), nearly half of the pregnancies in America are unintended.

SB 999 has the backing of three major reproductive health advocates in California: Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, the California Family Health Council and NARAL Pro-Choice California.

As CAPS has pointed out many times before, the Democratic politicians who control state politics are very responsive to groups like these which advocate for women’s issues generally and family planning, reproductive health and abortion rights in particular.

They also tend to be responsive to the environmental lobby.

Would that they were half as responsive to the importance of preventing over-immigration and overpopulation in California. But as Democrats, they salivate over the prospect of ever-increasing numbers of legal and illegal immigrants alike adding to their electoral base.

As I wrote in 2014:

“…if reproductive health and rights alone ensured population stabilization, then California would be in great shape, but this is far from the case.

“Our already overburdened state will be burdened by hundreds of thousands of additional residents, newcomers and newborns alike, in [this year] alone as we approach the dubious milestone of 40 million people, and by tens of millions more in the decades that follow.

“This is what will happen if we continue to take the path of least resistance and acquiesce to our current demographic trajectory. But it’s not a fait accompli. If young California women freely opted to have slightly fewer children on average, but much more importantly, if America chose lower rates of immigration, we could step off this path to perdition.”

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