California Forum

Students have a right to accessible health care. That includes abortion

Hundreds rally in downtown SLO in support of abortion rights

Women’s March SLO group hosted a rally Tuesday in San Luis Obispo, California, to advocate for abortion rights. The rally responded to states passing restrictive abortion bills, including Alabama and Missouri.
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Women’s March SLO group hosted a rally Tuesday in San Luis Obispo, California, to advocate for abortion rights. The rally responded to states passing restrictive abortion bills, including Alabama and Missouri.

College students across California are fighting for our right to get the abortion care we need without unnecessary barriers and delays. It’s time for our elected officials and universities to do the same.

The University of California Student Association (UCSA) is proud to this year support and advocate for Senate Bill 24, which would require on-campus student health centers at all public California universities to provide medication abortion, also known as the abortion pill.

As president of the UCSA, I have the honor of representing the voices of more than 235,000 students across all nine UC campuses and advocating for current and future UC students’ well-being.

Part of students’ ability to determine our own futures and stay healthy includes getting the health care we need when we need it, without difficulties or delays. That’s the point of on-campus student health centers, which already offer reproductive health services like birth control and STD testing. But no public university student health center in our state provides abortion care, and students are forced to leave campus for that care, which usually means missing class, work or both.

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Since more than two-thirds of UC students don’t have a car on campus, many have to use public transportation or arrange for a ride to get to the nearest clinic. If it takes more than 30 minutes to travel to any health care service, California’s Code of Regulations renders that service inaccessible, and yet some UC students must travel as many as four hours to an off-campus abortion provider.

The resulting added costs and lost wages can fall hardest on low-income students, including students of color and first-generation college students. We should not have to leave campus to see a provider we’ve never met, potentially falling behind in our school work, when the abortion pill is safe and clinically simple for student health centers to provide.

I am proud that SB 24 is a bill for students by students.

The effort originated at UC Berkeley, where in 2016 a group of students recognized that their peers faced significant hurdles when getting an abortion. Since then, this movement has grown – now, more than 1,000 students across California are talking to their friends and classmates as part of a larger statewide campaign of funders and social justice organizations to make abortion care on campus a reality. And, we have a champion in state Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, who is carrying SB 24.

Already this year, dozens of students have made our voices heard at the state Capitol, meeting with our representatives and speaking out in support of the bill.

Caroline Singh headshot.jpg

We aren’t the only ones. Two thirds of Californians support the bill, and in fact, that support increases when voters are asked to choose between offering the abortion pill on campus or requiring students to travel off campus, including almost 75 percent of women in California.

Last year, the bill passed both the state Senate and Assembly, only to be vetoed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown, who dismissed student barriers by deeming the bill “not necessary.” This year, SB 24 has already passed two legislative committees, and Gov. Gavin Newsom indicated his support for the bill during his gubernatorial campaign.

Our access to reproductive health care, from birth control to abortion care, should not be based on who we are, how much we earn or where we live.

SB 24, also known as the College Student Right to Access Act, is an important step toward achieving true economic and reproductive justice for California students. It’s time for our administrators and elected officials to join the UC Student Association in trusting students and supporting abortion care on campus.

Caroline Siegel Singh is a political science and public policy junior at UC San Diego and president of the University of California Student Association.

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