Governor Gavin Newsom signed the College Student Right to Access Act, Senate Bill 24 (SB 24), on Friday, which will require all UC and Cal State University (CSU) campuses to carry medical abortion services. By requiring on-campus health clinics to provide these services by January 2023, California will be the first state to provide medical abortions at its public universities.
State Senator Connie Leyva introduced SB 24 last December following then-Governor Jerry Brown’s veto of a previous version of this bill. Brown said the services required by the bill were already widely available, stating that a distance of five to seven miles to be reasonable.
According to a UC San Francisco assessment of California public college abortion access, only 15% of service providers are open during the weekends. Coupled with the fact that a medication abortion requires multiple visits, most UC students must travel at least two hours using public transit to obtain an abortion.
Medical abortions, while commonly known as “the abortion pill,” are a nonsurgical method that remains viable until ten weeks into pregnancy. This abortion method is not currently provided at any of the UC and CSU student health centers, despite other reproductive health services being offered. With a success rate of 95%, serious adverse side effects have only occurred in 0.3% of California Medicaid medical abortions, a rate lower than the national average of 0.5%.
Although SB 24 faced opposition from the Governor’s Chief Fiscal Advisor, Newsom stood by his statements last year supporting public universities providing medical abortion.
The UC system did not support the previous bill citing concerns over costs. Once in effect, SB 24 will create a new fund to allocate private money to all UC and CSU campuses in order to support and facilitate medical abortions at student health centers.
A $200,000 grant will be provided to each campus health center to purchase necessary equipment, provide sufficient training, and fund additional service requirements. An additional $200,000 grant will fund 24-hour telephone support line to students and setup administrative services.
“UC student health centers currently provide students with access to comprehensive reproductive health services,” said Media and Communications Strategist for the UC Office of the President Sarah McBride in an email to The Triton. “And this new law will further access to medication abortions by providing these services on-site. The university is currently evaluating next steps and will implement the law accordingly.”
60% of Californians support providing more comprehensive reproductive healthcare that would explicitly include medical abortions on college campuses, according to the online polling company Change Research. Overall support increases to 69% among women and decreases to 50% among men.
Planned Parenthood Generation Action at UC San Diego (PPGA), a campus organization that advocates for sexual and reproductive freedom, told The Triton SB 24’s approval is a great for students. PPGA said they plans to work with JustCARE, an organization aimed at improving reproductive equity on campuses, to boost awareness of the expansion of medical abortion access.
In a statement after signing the bill, Governor Newsom said: “As other states and the federal government go backward, restricting reproductive freedom, in California we are moving forward, expanding access and reaffirming a woman’s right to choose.”
Sahana Narayan is a Staff Writer for The Triton.