California Legislature Passes Bill Requiring Abortion Access at Public Universities

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UCSD Student Health and Wellness Center. Ella Chen / The Triton

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The California Assembly passed Senate Bill 320 (SB 320), which requires all UC and California State University (CSU) campuses to offer medication abortions to students, in a vote count that was first announced today on Twitter.

According to the bill, all UC and CSU health clinics are to provide medication abortions as an option by 2022. Funding for the bill will come from private donors, including the Women’s Foundation of California and the Tara Health Foundation.

Senator Connie Levya introduced the bill in February 2017 after the student government at UC Berkeley passed a resolution prompting the campus health clinic to offer medication abortions in its list of services.

Adiba Khan, co-founder of Students United for Reproductive Justice at UC Berkeley, advocated for the 2016 student government resolution on campus before helping to author the original bill when it was introduced in 2017.

“It still feels surreal—it’s amazing to know that California senators are not just pro-choice in rhetoric and actually believe in making pro-choice a reality for California students. Politicians are brave to do this because this is a very progressive abortion bill,” Khan said in a statement to The Triton.

The UC system was not supportive of the bill, citing concerns for the cost of administering medication abortions.

UC Office of the President Director of Media Relations Claire Doan said in a statement to Rewire.News: “Students should have access to affordable and convenient reproductive health care… However, as we have made clear to lawmakers, we are concerned that SB 320 does not provide adequate funding to support UC’s student health centers for medication abortion services on site.”

A grant of $200,000 will be given to each campus health clinic to upgrade facilities and train staff for the administration of the abortion pills. Another grant of $200,000 will be given to the UC and CSU systems, respectively, to staff 24-hour medical advice telephone lines and manage new financial procedures.

Medication abortion comes in the form of two pills, mifepristone and misoprostol, that are taken within ten weeks to terminate pregnancy. The combination of the two pills is 95 percent effective, and after taking misoprostol, women often experience bleeding similar to menstrual periods. The pills may either be taken in the clinic or at home.

Now that the bill has been passed in the assembly, Governor Jerry Brown must sign it before it becomes a law. In the past, Governor Brown has vetoed bills that would have funded health services on college campuses. In 2016, he vetoed AB 2017, a bill that would have established a grant program that funded mental health services on campuses.

Khan believes that if the bill becomes law, it will help destigmatize college abortions and emphasize the importance of student activism.

“Governor Brown does read letters of support that he gets in the mail. We want to get as many people [as we can] to sign a petition and send him a hard copy so he knows the support for this bill. We want him to understand that this is what students need and want. California legislators see that already. We need him to see that too.”

Ella Chen is the News Editor of The Triton. You can follow her @cinder_ellachen.