UCSD Students Debate Abortion Access Amid Push for Statewide Bill

Caroline Siegel-Singh speaks on SB320. Photo courtesy of Caroline Siegel-Singh.

UC San Diego students Rachel Pryce and Caroline Siegel-Singh debated in the local newspaper on Wednesday over the possibility of abortion pills being distributed on campus.

Siegel-Singh and Pryce both submitted opinion pieces to the San Diego Union-Tribune, respectively arguing for and against access to abortion pills on campus. Senate Bill (SB) 320 is a piece of legislation, first introduced by California Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) on February 17, 2017, that seeks for all public university student health centers in the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) systems to offer abortion by medication by January 1, 2022. It was passed by the California State Senate on January 29 of this year and will be voted on by the California State Assembly in the spring.

Siegel-Singh, a Sixth College Senator, is one of the student leaders in the UC community pushing for emergency on-campus contraception. She is also one of the chief advocates for Plan B pills, a birth control pill not to be confused with abortion pills, that is to be installed in a Price Center vending machine. In an opinion piece submitted to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Siegel-Singh writes she is part of a campaign working towards abortion pill access on campus and believes access to the pill is important for women’s health care, as well as racial and economic justice.

“Forcing students to leave campus for abortion care can mean lost wages and added costs such as transportation, which many simply can’t afford,” Siegel-Singh wrote. “In particular, students of color and first-generation college students face added barriers to accessing reproductive care.”

In contrast, Pryce, a first year Literature/Writing major with a minor in Education Studies, argued in a separate opinion piece published in the San Diego Union-Tribune that the risks of allowing abortion pill access on campus are not being fully assessed. She argues that SB 320 places priority on expediency rather than providing resources for women, while also making college campuses responsible for financial and medical liabilities.

“The chemical process will be highly traumatic in the campus setting, and this legislation will make our universities responsible for providing emergency procedures that may exceed their capabilities,” Pryce wrote. “One expedient solution does not constitute a choice, and as young women and students, we deserve health care that will ensure our safety and well-being, without sacrificing for the sake of convenience.”

According to a study done by the University of California, San Francisco’s Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH), a combined total of 1,038 abortions occur each month amongst students on UC and CSU campuses, and 31 percent of the abortions are done through medication processes.

Based on the research, on-campus abortion medication is important because of multiple financial limitations, which include tuition costs, limited work capabilities, and transportation difficulties. The study also argues that an unplanned pregnancy has a detrimental effect on education.

“Today, California university students face too many barriers when trying to access their constitutionally-protected right to abortion care,” State Senator Leyva said in a press release on Dec. 14, 2017. ”Our students, especially low-income students, are being harmed by this lack of access.”

Matthew Rom-Toribio is a staff writer at The Triton.