Capitol Alert

Abortion pills would be available at college campuses under California bill

Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, is carrying a bill to require rape kits to be tested.
Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, is carrying a bill to require rape kits to be tested.

Should California colleges make medication that induces an abortion available to students?

A controversial bill that would require student health centers at the University of California and California State University to offer “non-surgical abortion services” faces a crucial vote today to keep advancing this session. Introduced last February, Senate Bill 320 must pass the Senate Education Committee, which meets at 9 a.m. in Room 4203 of the Capitol, before a Friday deadline for holdover legislation.

Sen. Connie Leyva, a Chino Democrat who is carrying the measure, said she believes the more than 400,000 female students attending UC and CSU deserve affordable and safe abortion procedures on campus. Women who are less than 10 weeks pregnant can obtain the medication, a two-pill dosage of mifepristone and misoprostol, from a doctor, creating a response similar to an early miscarriage.

Students currently have to leave campus to access reproductive health services, sometimes traveling for hours and missing school and work, Leyva notes. Half of all students across both systems come from low-income families, according to a UC San Francisco report, creating further cost barriers.

“This bill is completely about access,” Leyva said.

A group of private organizations, including the Women’s Foundation of California, announced Tuesday that it would cover the costs of the law as part of a campaign, justCARE: Campus Action for Reproductive Equity, to promote access to abortion services at California public universities.

The anti-abortion advocacy group Californians for Life is among those opposing the bill. Wynette Sills, the organization’s director, said she rejects the notion that access to this abortion procedure is an issue for students. She said the average distance from each public university campus to the nearest medical abortion provider is less than six miles.

“There is no lack of access,” Sills said. “Sen. Leyva’s bill is all about abortion, abortion and more abortion rather than addressing the needs of housing and scholarships and adjustable exam schedules and all of those concerns that a young woman would have.”

Sills said supporters of SB 320 should instead force abortion providers to improve access to safe abortion procedures.

“Ask the abortion industry to pay for Uber rides from campus or ask them to stay open late into the evening or ask them to stay open on Saturdays...rather than creating a legislative mandate upon our university systems that are poorly equipped,” Sills said. “These student health centers are basically first aid centers with oftentimes just the basic medical infrastructure.”

Leyva’s bill establishes an advisory council that would, among other goals, ensure employees at each student health center are properly trained and have the proper equipment for the medication abortion procedures.

Adiba Khan, a senior at UC Berkeley who helped start the campus group Students United for Reproductive Justice, said she hopes justCARE and SB 320 help reduce the stigma associated with abortion.

“Offering abortion care on campus means students can get care wherever we live or go to school,” Khan said.

Welcome to the AM Alert, your morning run-down on California policy and politics. To receive it regularly, please sign up for it here.

WORTH REPEATING: “Be calm. Things have a way of working out.” – Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, on the lesson she’s keeping in mind as she begins her transition to Senate president pro tem in March

BUDGET BUSINESS: Before terming out this year, Gov. Jerry Brown has one more state budget to oversee. Will he indulge in an estimated $19 billion surplus for 2018-19? Or play it cautious as the aftershocks of President Donald Trump’s tax overhaul continue to settle? (Knowing Brown, it’s likely more the latter than the former.) Brown will hold a press conference at 10 a.m. in Room 1190 of the Capitol to unveil his proposal. To get you prepared, Adam Ashton has a rundown of five major issues to watch for in the plan.

TAX TURMOIL: What does the new federal tax law mean for California, and for you? Experts are still trying to figure that out after the plan was rushed through Congress at the end of last year with little time for analysis. As legislative leaders prepare their own bills this session to offset the effects of the Trump policy in California, the Senate Governance and Finance Committee is holding an informational hearing, 9:30 a.m. in Room 112 of the Capitol, to consider just what that impact may be. Representatives from the Franchise Tax Board will provide their initial assessment of the law.

MUST READ: How Chad Mayes and Arnold Schwarzenegger are trying to save the California Republican Party

MEXICO MISSION: A small legislative delegation is headed to Mexico for the next four days to “reinforce the closeness of the relationship” with California. Led by Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, the group will meet with Mexican government officials, business leaders and the U.S. ambassador to Mexico to discuss trade, immigration policy and the state’s cap-and-trade program.

“There is no sensible place for barriers between California and Mexico,” Rendon said in a statement. “This trip will send a message that California resists isolation and is willing to step up and work with Mexico if the federal administration abdicates that responsibility.” Other participants include Democratic Assembly members Todd Gloria of San Diego, Kevin McCarty of Sacramento, Jose Medina of Riverside and Eloise Reyes of Grand Terrace.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff