Senator Atkins Introduces Bill to Strengthen Protections for Abortion, Gender-Affirming Care Providers in California

March 21, 2023

SACRAMENTO – Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) today announced that she has introduced a bill to strengthen protections for California health care providers who provide abortion care services and gender-affirming care services.

Senate Bill 487 would ensure that a health insurer, or health care service plan cannot penalize a licensed California health care provider who performs abortion or gender-affirming care services. In addition, Medi-Cal would not be able to automatically suspend a provider when they are suspended by a Medicaid program in another state for performing abortion or gender affirming care services. The bill does not shield a provider from facing suspension or other consequences for any other wrongful or illegal acts, as determined through existing law.

If a care provider were to face civil, criminal, or other punitive actions because of services provided in another state, or because they provided services to a person from out of state, under SB 487, the provider would not face additional retaliation and repercussions in California. 

“Almost a third of individuals of reproductive age in this country live in a state where abortion is now illegal or is severely restricted,” said Pro Tem Atkins. “Since the Dobbs’ decision last year, licensed providers in California have seen a steady influx of people coming here from those states where abortion is restricted. Many providers have performed abortion services without hesitation, and some have even traveled to states where access is restricted to help those in need of care. SB 487 would shield our providers from sanctions so that there is no disruption in their ability to perform abortion care in California, where abortion is legal, and was enshrined by voters in our state constitution.”

SB 487 would also protect providers as it pertains to performing gender-affirming care. The bill would prohibit insurers from discriminating or refusing to contract with a provider who may have been sanctioned in another state for providing prohibited or restricted services that are legal in California. With many states starting to restrict or outlaw gender-affirming care, this provision is needed now more than ever.

The protections in the bill are only triggered if a provider is sanctioned for providing health care services that are medically appropriate, legal in California and clearly meet the California standard of care. It in no way limits existing law in place to protect patients from care this is sub-standard.

SB 487 follows more than a decade of work by Pro Tem Atkins to widen access to reproductive health care in California.

Most recently, Pro Tem Atkins introduced Senate Bill 385, which would expand and modernize training for physician assistants, and allow them to perform first trimester abortions within the scope of their clinical and professional education and training. SB 385 and SB 487 are part of a comprehensive package of bills by the Legislative Women’s Caucus and Future of Abortion Council, which are intended to continue California’s efforts to protect and enhance reproductive health care access from all angles, and fight back against continued attacks at the national level.

Last year, Pro Tem Atkins authored two critical pieces of reproductive health legislation – SB 1375 and SCA 10. SB 1375, which went into effect in January, increased access to affordable, quality abortion and reproductive care by giving trained and qualified nurse practitioners the ability to perform first trimester abortions without the supervision of a doctor. That legislation built on Pro Tem Atkins’ AB 154 (2013), which allowed qualifying advanced practice providers to perform first trimester abortions.

Pro Tem Atkins also authored SCA 10, the constitutional amendment to enshrine the right to abortion and contraceptives in California. It received widespread support in both houses and became Proposition 1, which was approved by a majority of California voters in November 2022.

SB 487 is sponsored by Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, the California Medical Association, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Region IX.

What others are saying about SB 487:

“Extremists in other states are fixated on banning abortion and criminalizing patients and providers, but in California, our leaders are focused on protecting access and those who provide essential health care to all who need it. We are thankful to Pro Tem Atkins for her leadership and for listening to abortion providers in designing a bill that offers the strongest protections possible in California. Protecting health care providers from adverse actions stemming from another state’s hostile laws and actions, particularly as it relates to being able to continue to serve Medi-Cal patients, is a priority for Planned Parenthood so that all patients can continue to seek care at health centers without disruption.”

-- Molly Robson, Vice President of Government Affairs, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California

“Senate Bill 487 will protect reproductive health care providers and ensure they can continue to treat the growing number of Californians who rely on Medi-Cal. With out-of-state lawmakers becoming increasingly aggressive about curbing access to abortion, California must be equally aggressive in ensuring they are not able to interfere with our state’s reproductive rights.”

-- Tanya W. Spirtos, M.D., President-Elect of the California Medical Association

“SB 487 will help ensure providers can continue to perform abortion and gender-affirming services without facing any penalties, even as other states continue to pass restrictions and outright bans on this type of health care. Thanks to Pro tem Atkins for her leadership on this bill.” 

-- Dr. Kelly McCue, MD, Chair of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, District IX


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Toni G. Atkins is President pro Tempore of the California Senate. Having previously served as Speaker of the California Assembly, she began her tenure in the Senate in 2016. As Senator for District 39, she represents the cities of San Diego, Coronado, Del Mar and Solana Beach. Website of President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins: