Capitol Alert

Should California public colleges prescribe abortion pills? The choice is up to Jerry Brown

A bill before the state Assembly would guarantee access to medication abortion for students at UC and CSU campuses.
A bill before the state Assembly would guarantee access to medication abortion for students at UC and CSU campuses. Star-Telegram file

Gov. Jerry Brown will decide if women attending California public universities should have access to abortion pills at campus health centers.

Women can typically receive the medication, a two-pill dosage of mifepristone and misoprostol, from a doctor up to nine or 10 weeks after the first day of the last menstrual cycle. The pills can be taken at home and health care organizations say the effect is similar to a heavy menstrual period, causing bleeding and cramps.

Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, introduced Senate Bill 320 to provide students with greater access to care for early pregnancy termination without seeking transportation or missing classes to receive safe reproductive health services.

The Senate approved the bill Thursday with a 26 to 13 vote. The Assembly signed off Wednesday, 52-25.

“A woman should always have the right to decide when she incorporates a family into her life,” Leyva said.

Anti-abortion rights activists, including the California Catholic Conference, condemn the proposal as discriminatory against students and health care workers who do not support abortion. Opponents argue that the availability of abortion pills on campus would reduce the effort and thought women put into a decision to have an abortion. They say it would leave women to suffer the effects of the medication alone in their dorm rooms without care.

Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, said he is worried the University of California cannot afford to implement the bill.

“We’ve got to stop putting more financial pressure on our system,” Moorlach said.

But Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D- Santa Barbara, said it will cost nothing because the program is privately funded.

“If we want to talk about the issue, this isn’t about the money because it’s not going to cost the state a dime,” Jackson said.

The proposal, which Leyva initially unveiled last year, mandates that all schools in the California State University and University of California systems offer abortion medication, which would be an optional service for private and community colleges.

The latest iteration of the proposal would allot $200,000 in private grant money to each student health center to cover the costs of implementing the program and $200,000 to each university system.

UC and CSU have not taken positions on the bill.

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