UC Board of Regents ends UC Health’s ‘restrictive’ health care affiliations

photo of zoom meeting
Lianna Leung/Staff
With the advocacy of groups such as NARAL Pro-Choice California, Equality California and ACLU California Action, the UC Board of Regents voted to reject affiliations with organizations that have "restrictive" LGBTQ+ and reproductive care policies, such as restrictions on abortions, hysterectomies and providing contraceptives.

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The UC Board of Regents held a virtual meeting Wednesday to review UC Health’s “restrictive” LGBTQ+ and reproductive care policies.

The vote, led by regents Chair John Pérez, finalized the decision to reject future affiliations with organizations providing “discriminatory” care. Specifically, the board plans to only partner with nonrestrictive entities, phasing out noncompliant affiliations no later than Dec. 31, 2023.

The final language comprising the amendments will be released 60 days after the meeting.

Prior to the decision, all six UC Health centers were in partnerships with health care organizations that contractually restrict the care university physicians can provide.

According to a contract between UCSF and St. Mary’s Medical Center, physicians are prohibited from performing abortions and hysterectomies and are not allowed to provide contraceptives due to the organization’s religious background.

“UC physicians are still not allowed to affirmatively provide comprehensive, evidence-based care,” said Equality California spokesperson Joshua Stickney at the meeting. “For UC to continue to contract with these hospitals that have restrictions on care, it is very harmful and traumatic for people in the LGBTQ+ community.”

Since 2019, numerous advocate groups for inclusive health care, including NARAL Pro-Choice California, Equality California and ACLU California Action, have sought a change in the UC Health contracts.

Shannon Olivieri Hovis, director of NARAL Pro-Choice California, noted that she would not be satisfied with the decision made by the regents until the final policy language is released. If “adequate progress” is not made, Hovis said she would look towards alternative legislation.

“We feel hopeful that this is a positive step towards addressing the concerns that we have been raising for the past couple of years,” Hovis said at the meeting. “I’m still hesitant because we don’t know where we will land once we see what the language will look like.”

In 2021, state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced SB 379, a bill ensuring that UC Health provides appropriate and unrestricted care. While SB 379 would have been revisited in the California State Senate in 2022, the regents chose to address the issue beforehand.

During the public comment section of the meeting, Wiener outlined his concerns for UC Health’s prior policies, imploring it to take a greater stand against discriminatory care.

“Chair John Pérez’s amendments are a positive step towards addressing the concerns of advocates, students, and thousands of Californians who have been clear that everyone deserves comprehensive, evidence-based care that is free from discrimination,” a statement released by NARAL, Equality California and ACLU California Action reads. “We are glad that the Board of Regents took it upon themselves to hold the UC Health system to stronger standards for their affiliation agreements.”

Contact Lianna Leung at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @LeungLianna.

Clarification(s):
A previous version of this article may have implied that the UC Board of Regents’ decision would result in legislative change. In fact, the regents’ decision will result in policy change and is separate from the legislative effort.

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article incorrectly attributed Shannon Olivieri Hovis as Shannon Hovis, director of NARAL. In fact, she is the director of NARAL Pro-Choice California.

A previous version of this article misquoted Shannon Olivieri Hovis as saying, “I’m still hesitant because we don’t know where we will land once we see what the legislative language will look like.” In fact, she said, “I’m still hesitant because we don’t know where we will land once we see what the language will look like.”