A new bill is now in the hands of Gov. Gavin Newsom that would give more than 400,000 female students enrolled in California’s public universities access to medical abortion services.
Introduced by Sen. Connie Leyva, SB24 would obligate California public universities’ student health care services clinics to provide access to abortion by medication. In other words, women under 10 weeks pregnant can have abortions by taking what is sometimes called an “abortion pill.” All public universities would be allocated $200,000 for staff training and adequate equipment to perform abortions.
While the bill would not affect private universities, the University of Southern California has already made many services available for reproductive health. Associate Vice Provost for Student Health and Chief Health Officer, Dr. Sarah Van Orman, explained USC has been a provider of medical induced abortions for several years to any student covered under the student health services fee.
“It is a covered service,” Van Orman said in an interview Monday. “Regardless of what their health insurance coverage is, we do provide medical abortion services at USC student health both within our Eric Cohen center, as well as here at the Engemann student Health center”.
However, there is opposition to the legislation known in Sacramento as SB24. California Catholic leaders have voiced strong objections to making the abortion pill accessible to all public institutions. “Surgical abortion is not something that would be performed on site, so we just offer medication abortion. If a student were to choose a surgical abortion, they could be referred for those services” Van Orman said.
In recent years, USC has made efforts to continue to give students more access to reproductive health. One of those efforts is the new process for screening for sexually transmitted infections. Now, students are able to fill out a form online so that a nurse can review the screening request, place the order, and the student can go directly to the lab for tests. This process can eliminate a student’s anxiety of stigmas by not forcing them to walk into an office, according to Van Orman.
Another initiative the private university has taken is the new vending machine that offers students over the counter pharmaceutical products in the middle of the night. Located in Kings Hall, the vending machine initially started as an initiative for students to have access to Plan B, Van Orman said.
“The vending machine was a request that came from undergraduate student government and we partnered with the USC pharmacy," she said. "The vending machine also has other products: pregnancy tests, ibuprofen, Claritin, and thermometers.”
In 2018, former Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a similar measure, saying college students have access to the pill through other means. “Because the services required by this bill are widely available off-campus, this bill is not necessary,” Brown wrote in a veto statement, according to the Sacramento Bee. Although Newsom has expressed his support for the bill in the past, he has one month to make a decision.