California’s public universities are considering the potential impact of a controversial new law requiring they provide students access to abortion-inducing medication. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the bill, the first of its kind in the nation, last Friday. The measure will go into effect in 2023.
Senate Bill 24 requires UC and CSU schools to provide pills that terminate early pregnancy non-surgically by inducing a miscarriage. The pill, which requires taking two medications over the course of two days, is considered a safe and acceptable abortion method for those who are less than 10 weeks pregnant, according to Planned Parenthood. The pill is different from the morning-after pill, such as Plan B, which acts as an emergency contraceptive measure to prevent pregnancy.
Currently, students who require abortion services are referred to off-campus centers by their student health center. The bill comes as a solution to making reproductive services more accessible for college students.
“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,” Newsom said in a written statement to the Los Angeles Times.
According to a 2018 study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, 62% of students were more than a 30-minute ride from the nearest abortion facility, the Times reported. The average cost of a medical abortion totaled $604.
Students United for Reproductive Justice executive member at UC Berkeley Noël Jones said the bill will alleviate many obstacles that stand in the way of safe and accessible abortions, specifically for college students.
“I feel like all of us were finally listened to when all of us came together, and we said this is something students need, this is something that’s causing students a lot of unnecessary burdens,” Jones said. “To have the governor listen to us and back up reproductive equity on college campuses — we’re super grateful.”
While USC is not a public university and does not fall within the mandates of the legislation, it has provided medical services to induce abortion for a couple of years. According to Associate Vice Provost for Student Health and Chief Health Officer Dr. Sarah Van Orman, these services are covered under both USC and non-USC insurance.
According to a statement from Tami Cate of UC Berkeley Health Services, the bill will not provide surgical abortions. If students wish to receive abortion services aside from the pill, they will be referred out.
"University Health Services is fully committed to implementing the new law and has already begun the planning for offering these services at the Tang Center on campus,” Cate said. “We support the choice of where students want to get these services and have long provided contraceptives, including the ‘morning-after pill’ as well as and referrals to nearby facilities for abortion services."
Taylor Stahel, a USC junior majoring in international relations and global business, said she feels offering abortion services on campus provides a safer alternative than going off-campus.
“I think it’s a cool thing that your own school that you go to, where you feel comfortable at, can also be a place where you can go to get this pill,” Stahel said. “I think having it on campus, it’ll be a much safer place, that’s a really safe space that a school can create.”
Emily Pohlman, a USC sophomore majoring in business administration, said although the bill is beneficial, it doesn’t consider the fact that taxpayers who may not agree with the bill will be required to pay for it.
“I think with public schools that the government funds with taxpayers’ dollars, it’s a little bit unfair to make taxpayers’ money go toward [abortion services] if they don’t believe in it,” Pohlman said. “That’s like placing your beliefs on someone else. But, I don’t think that’s a problem in California. I think everyone would support it.”
Former Gov. Jerry Brown previously vetoed a similar bill to SB24, citing the availability of plentiful off-campus resources that provide abortion services. The bill also faced opposition by Newsom’s Department of Finance, which projected that the legislation’s cost would exceed its proposed budget. Regardless, Newsom greenlit operations for the law to go into effect in four years.