California is one step closer to becoming the first US state to make it mandatory for public universities to provide its students access to the medical abortion pill.
Students are currently travelling for hours to access the pill, leaving them stuck between missing classes for consultations or potentially missing the 10-week effectiveness window the pill has.
But last week, the Californian Senate approved a Bill that aims to change that. The Bill makes it a requirement for all 34 University of California and California State University campuses to offer medication abortions – often called the abortion pill – in their health care centres, by no later than January 2022.
The Bill now awaits approval by the state assembly and to be signed into law by the governor.
Good news! #SB320 passed out of the California Senate floor. This bill will increase access to #reprohealth services for students at public universities by providing medication #abortion on campus at student health centers. Congrats, @justcareca! pic.twitter.com/jGti7Drs14
— National Partnership (@NPWF) January 30, 2018
Abortion has been legal in the United States since 1973, yet only two universities offer medical abortion services of any kind, according to a survey.
Five hundred students from public Californian universities access medical abortions every month, according to Huffington Post, with more than half of students falling into low-income categories.
Kaitlyn, a student at University of California, Berkeley, faced the struggle of accessing a medical abortion after falling pregnant due to failed contraception, she told the publication.
Not being able to get help on campus, she had to travel to the nearest clinic for an ultrasound before being referred to Planned Parenthood.
But, by the time she was able to access the abortion pill, the 10-week window had passed despite the US$200 she forked out, the shifts she missed at her job, the classes she had no choice but to skip and the internship she had to turn down.
“I had to go through so many steps, and I didn’t need to. It was a lot of money. It was stressful. Really, it was awful,” Kaitlyn said.
California is really at the forefront when it comes to proactive reproductive health policy! They are talking about mandating the availability of medication abortion to students on UC campuses. https://t.co/pV3ui4Aqxc pic.twitter.com/cx1ap1eN4q
— Grandmothers for Reproductive Rights (@GRRNow) January 29, 2018
Senator Connie Leyva who reportedly wrote the Bill, said: “I firmly believe that all students should be able to decide what to do with their own bodies and when to factor a family into their life.”
“After all, women do not lose the constitutional right to end a pregnancy simply because they are a college student.”
However pro-life groups have criticised the Bill for not respecting the right for a person to carry through with pregnancy.
“They [supporters] are not there to honor the life-affirming and life-giving choices that our faith would support. They’re all-in on encouraging a young woman to have an abortion,” California Catholic Conference Executive Director Ned Dolejsi told VOA.
Californians For Life said universities do not have the funding or resources to safely carry out medical abortions, according to Huffington Post.
California is putting the life and health of young girls at risk by seeking to distribute abortion pills on college campuses. Generally one of two abortion pills is taken by the woman without medical supervision, and combined, have significant side effects and failure rates.
— Lila Rose (@LilaGraceRose) January 31, 2018
Supporters of the Bill claim this is not true, with organisations including Tara Health Foundation and the Women’s Foundation of California pledging to pay for the rolling out of the policy, including training and equipment.
They have agreed to supply up to US$20 million, Women’s Foundation of California CEO Surina Khan told Huffington Post.
“If there are health centres in universities that will need ultrasound machines, or training about how to administer medication abortion, that will all be provided for through the funder consortium’s resources,” Khan said.
“Our hope is that this will be a model for other states to pick up.”