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.
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