On Monday, the California Senate voted on and approved SB 320, which would require all four-year public universities in the state to provide medication abortion for its students by 2022.
Medication abortions involve two separate pills, one with the drug mifepristone and one with misoprostol. Unlike surgical abortions, medical abortions allow women to take the pills in their own home or during a consultation with a doctor. Medication abortions can only be used up to 10 weeks since the first day of the last menstrual period, so access to the medication in a timely manner impacts whether women can use this method.
An estimated 1,038 UC and CSU students receive abortions each month. One UCSF study projected that there would be “up to 519 medication abortions each month across [these campuses] if student health centers offered medication abortion.”
According to a statement from the office of Senator Connie M. Leyva, author of SB 320, the bill ensures “safe and reliable access to comprehensive reproductive health services for college women in California.”
The push for this bill began with an on-campus petition led by Adiba Khan, now a senior at UC Berkeley and co-founder of Students United for Reproductive Justice.
According to Khan, although the UC Berkeley health center offers all 18 forms of contraception, obtaining abortion medication was an unnecessarily tedious process, as students needed to travel to local health centers.
“Though access to reproductive health services at UC Berkeley seems limited, in comparison to other universities, UC Berkeley has much greater resources,” said Khan.
Students United for Reproductive Justice created a resolution along with the student government and brought it to the UC Berkeley health center administration leaders.
In an emailed statement, UC Berkeley’s Tang Center said, “Officials at the Tang Center fully support a woman’s right to choose and have long provided contraceptives, including the “morning after pill” (which is not to be confused with the “medication abortion” pills indicated in the proposed bill) and referrals to nearby facilities for abortion services.”
The statement further explained that there “Implementation of any changes from future legislation such as the bill being discussed would be discussed on a system-wide level through University of California Office of the President (UCOP).”
The Students United for Reproductive Justice resolution prompted Senator Leyva to draft SB 320.
Senator Leyva said the passing of this legislation is “one more way to reinforce women’s rights and one more way to guarantee a woman’s constitutional right to have an abortion. It is really all about access to [abortion medication] at [campus] health centers; [students] shouldn’t have to go off-campus. Medication abortion can only be taken up to 10 weeks into pregnancy and most students find out between 4 to 5 weeks, so imperative that it is easily accessible for college students.”
However, SB 320 faces opposition from other groups; one is the Students for Life of America. In an email, the organization stated, "SB 320 is a dangerous piece of legislation that would flood college campuses with harmful abortion drugs. Not only are colleges not equipped to dispense these drugs, but they also are not the proper place for them."
“Women deserve better than being told to take a few drugs and have an abortion in their college dorm rooms or college bathrooms. Women deserve real, life-affirming options.”
In addition to abortion pills, SB 320 would bring greater access to contraceptive options to the entire state.
Besides mandating that health centers at public universities have medication abortion in stock, Khan explains that the SB 320 would "prevent abortion procedure complications, provide access to medication abortion aftercare services, and allow for greater convenience for students."
Private universities such as USC can opt-in, meaning “grants to on-campus student health centers at public and private colleges and universities [will be provided] for the implementation of abortion by medication techniques.”
The legislation now advances to the California State Assembly. If the Assembly approves, the bill would need to be approved by the governor no later than August 31 of this year.