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Bill to Reduce Barriers to Abortion Care Passes First Policy Committee

AB 571 Removes Abortion Exceptionalism from Malpractice Insurance

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO – In the months following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, accessibility to abortion and reproductive care remains a significant challenge for many patients. Since the Dobbs decision, Rob Bonta, Attorney General of California said, “One in three women has lost access to abortion. Patients, including children and survivors of sexual violence, have been forced to cross state lines to receive reproductive care. Pregnant people — disproportionately those of color — have been stripped of fundamental rights across a large swath of our nation.”

A major barrier to protecting and expanding the accessibility of abortion care is the cost and availability of liability insurance. According to research, physicians often must purchase costly abortion riders. Evidence suggests that these large premiums for abortion riders are out of proportion to the true liability risk. In the most extreme cases, some malpractice insurance providers have simply refused to provide coverage to physicians providing abortions.

AB 571 prohibits insurers from refusing to issue professional liability insurance to licensed healthcare practitioners solely because they offer abortion, contraception, or gender-affirming services, and additionally prohibits an insurer from charging an arbitrary fee or surcharge to a healthcare provider for offering these services. The bill will reduce barriers otherwise capable, licensed, and willing healthcare providers face when trying to offer reproductive health services. 

Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Irvine), Author of AB 571 said, “An important aspect of improving access to abortion care is addressing the cost and availability of liability insurance. It is unacceptable for malpractice insures to discriminate against healthcare providers that provide sexual and reproductive healthcare. AB 571 will ensure that liability insurance includes coverage for sexual and reproductive healthcare, including abortions.”

What people are saying:

Holly Smith, Health Policy Chair of the California Nurse-Midwives Association (CNMA) said, “Nurse-midwives are proud abortion providers. Our philosophy of care mandates us to provide the most comprehensive, person-centered, affordable care possible for the people we serve – a large portion of whom reside in low-resourced areas where access to care is already complicated and difficult to obtain. As midwives, we also face significant difficulties in obtaining liability insurance, mostly due to miseducation about what we do, who we serve, and due to cost. Any further restrictions or price increases in liability insurance in order to provide abortion care will almost certainly prevent nurse-midwives in California from providing this service. The California Nurse-Midwives Association is ecstatic that today's committee agreed that such barriers have no place in California.”

Flor Hunt, Executive Director of Training in Early Abortion for Comprehensive Healthcare (TEACH) said, “With anti-abortion and anti-trans laws emerging across the country at an unprecedented rate, the need to protect our providers and expand access to essential reproductive and gender affirming healthcare has never been more important. That is why TEACH is thrilled to work with Assemblywoman Petrie-Norris and our partners on this important California Future of Abortion Bill, AB 571. This bill will ensure that licensed medical providers are not discriminated against, denied medical malpractice insurance coverage, or charged an unfair premium, just because they provide abortion, contraception, or gender affirming care that has been outlawed in other states. We’re proud to do the work to ensure California has the strongest reproductive health workforce in the country, capable of caring for every person seeking care in our great state.”

Dr. Yen Truong, practicing OB/GYN and Legislative Co-Chair for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) said, “Physicians who want to provide abortion care are sometimes unable to do so because they cannot obtain professional liability coverage or the coverage is too expensive. This not only limits abortion care access, but is also disproportionate to how safe abortion care is. AB 571 helps alleviate this issue and improve abortion access."

NARAL Pro-Choice California Director Shannon Oliveri Hovis said, “NARAL Pro-Choice California and our more than 371,000 members thank Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris for authoring Assembly Bill 571, which we are proud to sponsor in the 2023 Legislative Session. By prohibiting liability insurance discrimination based on abortion, contraception, gender-affirming health care, and more, this legislation will help expand access in California no matter what barriers other states’ anti-choice extremists try to create.”

President-Elect of the California Medical Association Tanya W. Spirtos, M.D said, “As lawmakers in other states work to undermine decades of progress in women’s health care it is critically important that our state provides protections for health care practitioners providing vital reproductive services to women. By prohibiting insurers from denying liability insurance to health care providers because they provide abortion, contraception, or gender-affirming services AB 571 will help ensure that patients do not face barriers to accessing the care they need.”

AB 571 has a broad coalition of support including: California Medical Association; NARAL Pro-Choice California; American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists District IX; Training in Early Abortion for Comprehensive Healthcare; California Nurse-Midwives Association; Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California; Access Reproductive Justice; American Nurses Association/California; California Academy of Family Physicians; Essential Access Health; If/when/how: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice; National Health Law Program; Nurses for Sexual & Reproductive Health; Reproductive Health Access Project (RHAP); San Francisco Black, Jewish and Unity Group; Women's Foundation California.