Soapbox

California college students need easier access to abortion pill

A bill would guarantee access to the abortion pill for students at California public universities.
A bill would guarantee access to the abortion pill for students at California public universities. Star-Telegram file

When Kaitlyn Trevino went to the student health center at UC Berkeley and found out she was pregnant, she was upset about the unintended pregnancy but grateful for the kindness and compassion of the nurse.

 
Opinion

Ending the pregnancy was far more difficult than she expected. First, there was an emergency room visit to check if the pregnancy was ectopic, which cost $200 she couldn’t afford and forced her to spend most of the night at the hospital and miss two shifts at an internship. Then, there was an appointment with a social worker to get a referral, which prompted uncomfortable questions from her employer, and going alone to an off-campus clinic.

For many students, university student health centers are trusted providers that offer a wide range of reproductive health services, including birth control and tests for sexually transmitted diseases. Two years ago, students at UC Berkeley demanded better access to comprehensive reproductive health care, including medication abortion. The school administration denied their request.

That single-campus campaign has now grown into a statewide effort to bring medication abortion to student health centers at public universities across California.

Now, Sen. Connie M. Leyva has introduced Senate Bill 320 to ensure that access for students who seek to end their pregnancy during the first ten weeks. The Senate approved the bill Monday afternoon, and it now goes to the state Assembly.

While campus centers provide quality health care at minimal cost to students, none offer abortion care. Each month, as many as 519 students at the 34 University of California and California State University campuses must seek abortions off-campus.

That is time-consuming, costly and forces students to miss class and work. Sixty-two percent of students need to spend two hours or more on public transit, and for some travel time can exceed six hours. Students have to wait an average of one week for an appointment.

These barriers to this constitutionally-protected right disproportionately harm minority, low-income and first-generation college students. Why should students have to leave campus to seek reproductive care from a stranger when there are already trusted, competent professionals on campus?

California students are today’s leaders and change-makers, and the future of our state. Let’s work together to support their academic and personal success by making reproductive health care, including abortion, available to all who choose it.

Connie M. Leyva, a Chino Democrat, represents the 20th state Senate District and can be contacted at Senator.Leyva.senate.ca.gov.

Kaitlyn Trevino is a senior at UC Berkeley and can be contacted at info@justcarecalifornia.org.

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