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Birth Control - Contraception


Access to contraception is critical to public health as part of basic health care. Providing birth control and emergency contraception is 40% of what Planned Parenthood health centers do in California. Contraception prevents unintended pregnancies and enables women to more effectively plan when and if they become pregnant.

Methods of birth control have been around for thousands of years, helping women and men to plan their families. Access to these methods has been threatened at different times throughout history, but today there are many safe and effective methods of birth control available to us.

If you are interested in medical or health information about birth control, please visit the Planned Parenthood clinical page on birth control.

Birth Control is part of Planned Parenthood's Mission

Planned Parenthood Action Funds in California seek to promote public policy and legislation which:

  • Includes family planning as part of basic health care.
  • Expands education and awareness for women, men, and teens about all FDA approved contraceptive options.
  • Improves access to and availability of contraceptives and reproductive health care services for women, men, and teens regardless of income status.
  • Supports research and expansion of new FDA-approved contraceptive options that are proven to be safe and effective to improve the range of contraceptives available to women, men, and teens.


  • 1870s — Comstock laws make contraception illegal and prohibit distributing information about family planning and birth control because the material is "obscene."
  • 1916 — At age 19, Margaret Sanger, with a sister and friend, opens a clinic that distributes illegal birth control advice to poor immigrant women in New York City.
  • 1936 — A U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturns the Comstock laws in New York, Connecticut and Vermont, giving married couples in those states the right to obtain contraceptives.
  • 1937 — The American Medical Association officially recognizes birth control as an integral part of medical practice and education.
  • 1960 — The Food and Drug Administration approves the sale of oral contraception pills. They are an immediate success.
  • 1965 — In Griswald v. Connecticut, the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down state laws prohibiting the use of birth control by married couples.
  • 1972 — In Eisenstadt v. Baird, the U.S. Supreme Court gave unmarried individuals the same right to contraception as married individuals.
  • 2004 — The FDA rejects the proposal to make emergency contraception available over the counter, an action the FDA Women's Health Chief Susan Wood protested by resigning the following year.
  • 2005 — California passes legislation that establishes protocol for pharmacists who object to dispensing emergency contraception, ensuring women in need get the medication in a timely manner.
  • 2006 — The FDA reverses its policy, allowing the over-the-counter sale of emergency contraception to women 18 and older.
  • 2008 — President Bush passes "right of conscious" rule, allowing health care workers the right to refuse to administer services they morally object to. The rule was so sweeping, it was feared health care providers would be allowed to refuse to dispense birth control.
  • 2009 — The FDA approves the over-the-counter sale of emergency contraception to 17-year-olds.


Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California (PPAC) believes that individuals have the right to access methods of birth control and contraception of their choice regardless of income status. As a result, PPAC has worked with coalition partners to introduce several pieces of legislation that have become law:


SB 644 (Ortiz) – Patient Prescription Protection Act
This law ensures a patient's right to basic health care and also protects a pharmacist's right to abide by his or her ethical, moral or religious beliefs. California's pharmacy law was silent on a pharmacist's duty to fill a prescription. Prior to this legislation, the Pharmacy Act only authorizes licensed pharmacists to dispense medication, among other things. This gap in the law has allowed licensed pharmacists to refuse to dispense medications that have been lawfully prescribed.

2003 - 2004

SB 490 (Alpert) and SB 545 (Speier) – Emergency Contraception Access
These laws increase the access to emergency contraception (EC). SB 490 authorizes a pharmacist to furnish emergency contraception (EC) in accordance with a standardized procedure or protocol developed and approved by the Medical Board of California and Board of Pharmacy, in consultation with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. SB 545 eliminates the consultation fee that is currently charged by pharmacists and instead allows pharmacists to charge a "dispensing fee" of no more than $10. These important measures ensure that uninsured and underserved women will have access to EC and that women will have greater access to this important contraceptive option on weekends and holidays. When used within 72 hours of unprotected sex, EC reduces a woman's chances of becoming pregnant by up to 89 percent.

2001 - 2002

SB 1169 (Alpert) – Emergency Contraception in Pharmacies
A landmark statute, SB 1169 will serve to greatly improve access to emergency contraception throughout the state by authorizing a pharmacist to initiate the EC therapy in accordance with standardized protocols developed by the pharmacist and an authorized prescriber. The governor, who signed the bill in October, helped facilitate an important step in the battle against unintended and teen pregnancy.

AB 1860 (Migden) – Emergency Contraception for Victims of Sexual Assault
Effective January 1, 2003, health care providers that perform evidentiary examinations in hospitals and designated rape crisis centers are required to provide information regarding the risk of pregnancy to female victims of sexual assault, as well as information regarding emergency contraception. In addition, these health care providers are required to dispense emergency contraception to those women who request it. Until now, some California health care providers have not dispensed emergency contraception to victims of sexual assault, and many women have not been aware that it is an option.

1999 - 2000

AB 39 (Hertzberg)/SB 41 (Speier) – The Women's Contraceptive Equity Act
The bill required all health insurance plans provide prescription benefit packages for Federal Drug Administration-approved methods of contraception, providing a narrow exemption for certain religious employers. Other versions of the bill had been vetoed by then-Governor Pete Wilson twice – in 1995 and 1998 – highlighting the importance of Davis' signature on this historic piece of legislation.

The web site is a collaborative project of:
Community Action Fund of Planned Parenthood Orange and San Bernardino Counties
Planned Parenthood Action Fund of the Pacific Southwest
Planned Parenthood Shasta Pacific Action Fund
Planned Parenthood Action Fund of Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo Counties
Planned Parenthood Advocates Mar Monte
Planned Parenthood Advocacy Project Los Angeles County
Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California

A project of Planned Parenthood Action Funds in California, 501(c)(4) organizations. Copyright 2013,
Paid for by the local Planned Parenthood 501(c)4 organization PAC and local Planned Parenthood 501(c)4 organization. (
Not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.