Capitol Alert

Abortion pills will be available on California college campuses if Gavin Newsom signs this bill

Pro-choice activists hold placards during a rally at the Supreme Court in reaction to the passage of bills in Alabama, Georgia, Missouri and other states that restrict access to abortion on May 21, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)
Pro-choice activists hold placards during a rally at the Supreme Court in reaction to the passage of bills in Alabama, Georgia, Missouri and other states that restrict access to abortion on May 21, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS) Abaca Press/TNS

A bill to require California’s public universities to offer abortion medication through campus clinics now awaits Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature.

Senate Bill 24 is state Sen. Connie Leyva’s attempt to require the University of California and California State University systems to offer students “the abortion pill” as an on-campus medical service. The measure moved to the governor’s desk on Friday after the Senate approved it on a 28-11 vote during the Legislature’s final day in session.

“In a time when states across our country are rolling back women’s health care and access to abortion, California continues to lead the nation to protect every individual’s right to choose,” the Chino Democrat said. “SB 24 reaffirms the right of every college student to access abortion. By ensuring that abortion care is available on campus, college students will not have to choose between delaying important medical care or having to travel long distances or miss classes or work.”

Leyva championed the bill as a reproductive healthcare rights issue that affects an estimated 500 public university students each month. She said students who want to terminate early pregnancies without having to miss class or work to travel off campus need access to the services within their own community.

Maintaining that choice, she advocated, will enhance academic achievement and support low-income students and women of color who struggle accessing quality reproductive care.

The Commission on the Status of Women would financially support training and implementation services through private grant money. If that funding falls short, the state would either have to cover the costs, or student health fees would have to increase, according to the bill analysis.

Former Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a similar measure last year, saying the average distance to abortion clinics was not “unreasonable.”

“Because the services required by this bill are widely available off campus, this bill is not necessary,” he said.

Republicans voted against SB 24 in both chambers on Friday, with some Democrats abstaining in the Assembly.

The Department of Finance also opposed the bill, citing the estimated price tag would likely exceed the private funds. It also said the commission lacks the resources and expertise required to roll out a program of this “size, scope, or content.”

The religious advocacy group California Family Council also opposed the bill. People who identified themselves as Catholic crowded legislative hearings on the bill this year to oppose it.

For women who are less than 10 weeks pregnant, the abortion pill is an alternative option to more invasive abortion procedures. The process involves taking two medications within two days, which prompts cramping and bleeding while the uterus expels the pregnancy.

The medication is considered safe and is more than 90 percent effective , according to Planned Parenthood.

The bill was backed by pro-choice agencies, activists and student advocacy groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, NARAL Pro-Choice California and Students United for Reproductive Justice at UC Berkeley.

“I was forced to go to an off-campus provider for care because my student health center did not provide medication abortion on campus. That’s not how it should be. That’s not reproductive equity and that’s certainly not reproductive justice,” said Zoe Murray, a 23-year-old University of California Santa Barbara alumna who said at a Sept. 4 rally in Sacramento that she had an abortion her sophomore year.

Newsom has until Oct. 13 to sign the bill, which would take effect in January 2023.

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Hannah Wiley joined The Bee as a legislative reporter in 2019. She produces the morning newsletter for Capitol Alert and previously reported on immigration, education and criminal justice. She’s a Chicago-area native and a graduate of Saint Louis University and Northwestern.
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