A new California bill would make the state the first to require that all public universities make abortion pills available at student health centers. The bill has already been approved by the state Senate and is currently on its way to the state Assembly. If the bill passes, all California State Universities and University of California campuses would have to carry and offer the abortion pills by January 1, 2022.
College health centers typically offer a wide range of services including immunizations, contraception, mental health services, x-rays, dental and optical services among others. Health center offerings can vary campus to campus as well, with some offering IUD insertions and others not.
Is there sufficient access to abortion pills on student campuses?
One of the organizers behind the bill is Adiba Khan who told CalMatters she helped launch the campaign for the bill after several of her classmates at UC Berkley had trouble obtaining the pills which must be taken during the first ten weeks of pregnancy. After ten weeks, a pill is no longer an option, and more medically invasive procedures are necessary to complete an abortion.
“Most people don’t find out that they’re pregnant until five, six weeks in, so that’s a really short time crunch,” said Khan, who added that often students have to wait a week or more to get an appointment at student health centers.
“Students at UCLA and Berkeley still experience a bad time so just imagine students who are in more secluded areas,” she said. “They have to go through an insane battle to be able to get an abortion.”
While supporters of the bill claim it’s necessary to ensure women’s constitutional rights to abortion pills are not denied simply because of a lack of access, opponents of the bill argue access is not a problem.
“The abortion industry strategically places their facilities close to young women, that demographic, and of course close to universities,” said Anna Arend, Northern California regional coordinator of Students for Life of America, which opposes the bill. “There really is no issue of access. It’s a made-up problem.”
“It’s necessary because it’s a constitutionally protected right, but just because it’s a constitutionally protected right does not mean you have access,” countered state Sen. Connie Leyva who authored the bill.
CalMatters reported that while UC Santa Cruz is only two miles from a Planned Parenthood, UC Davis is over 11 miles away from an abortion-providing clinic. San Diego State is one mile away from a clinic, while CSU Stanislaus is over 14 miles away from a clinic.
Private funding would support the abortion pill initiative.
Funding for the first year of the project will be provided by donations from the Women’s Foundation of California. Private donors and major health advocacy groups have provided the foundation with up to $20 million to fund the service for the first year. The foundation intends to provide both UC and CSU with $200,000 each, and $200,000 to each campus in their system.
It is expected that the funding will be deployed to train campus healthcare providers how to prescribe abortion pills and bill health insurers for the service. Levya said by the second year campuses will be able to cover the costs of the program via insurance reimbursements.