Students Need Access to Abortions on Campus, Not 5-7 Miles Away

Earlier this year, SB 320 passed through the legislature in California. The bill would have required all California State University (CSU) and UC campuses to offer medicated abortions by 2022. However, that act was vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown.

In his decision to veto this bill, Brown cited a study that found that abortion providers tended to be around 5–7 miles away from college campuses, making access to medicated abortion on the campuses themselves unnecessary.

As a current UC San Diego student, 5–7 miles can mean all the difference. In a large, growing city, with limited means of public transportation, this could seriously limit the opportunities available to students.

UCSD students are in an increasingly isolated area of San Diego. Living in La Jolla often feels as though you are separated from more metropolitan areas of San Diego. This separation is even more clear when the closest abortion providers are in Kearny Mesa and Mira Mesa, and while both are within the 5–7 mile distance from campus, they are far from being easily accessible to students.

First-year students who live on campus are not even allowed to bring cars to campus and many students, regardless of year, decide to not bring a car due to the severe lack of parking on campus. This leaves a large segment of the student population without reliable transportation. Instead, many students have to rely on the public transportation systems, which can take considerably longer than other transportation methods. In fact, if one were to take public transit to the nearest Planned Parenthood in the Clairemont Mesa area around noon, it would take approximately one hour to arrive there. Other students are left paying for a rideshare service such as Lyft or Uber, both of which can cost up to $17 each way if a student were to leave from UCSD.

Distance isn’t the only challenge that UCSD students face when trying to access abortions. Students face increasingly busy schedules, especially balancing classes, exams, work, and internships. This causes a conflict when students have to coordinate an appointment within a very restricted time frame. For example, the Planned Parenthood in Clairemont, one of the closest Planned Parenthoods to UCSD, has hours from 10:00 a.m. until 6:30 p.m., which is the same stretch of time in which classes and student jobs often occur. While stopping by Student Health Services on campus is possible for the vast majority of students, heading to Clairemont or Mira Mesa in this span of time is unlikely.   

The commute to obtain an abortion is also more personal than just making an appointment and taking a bus. Having an abortion can cause both physical discomfort and emotional difficulty. For students traveling for upwards of an hour to and from obtaining these services, sitting or standing on a bus ride with strangers would create an uncomfortable situation.

In retrospect, Jerry Brown made the mistake of not understanding the challenges that students face. Given the challenges that we face here at UCSD in terms of transportation and the hectic schedules of students, it can be assumed that other college students at campuses across California may have similar problems, including the lack of space for cars, lack of reliable and affordable transportation, and difficulty acquiring appointments in a reasonable amount of time. Furthermore, a study conducted by UCSF supports these conclusions: “Currently the majority of students have to travel at least 30 minutes each way using public transportation to reach the nearest facility offering abortion care. Also, students have to wait one week, on average, for the next available medication abortion appointment and most nearby facilities are not open on weekends.”  

By not allowing an expansion of medical services, Brown’s decision leaves UC and CSU students with more challenges than options. But in more recent news, California State Senator Connie Leyva has announced that she is planning to re-introduce a bill which requires the UC and CSU systems to provide access to medication abortions on campus. Students, the UC and CSU systems, and Governor-elect Gavin Newsom should all rally behind and support this bill in order to provide access and opportunities for students instead of barriers.

Simone Singh is a Staff Writer for The Triton.

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