The California Senate is considering a bill that would require health centers at public universities to provide RU-486, the abortion pill.
Public university health centers in California could be required to provide this non-surgical option, if Senate-Bill 24 becomes law.
The bill was reintroduced in December by State Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, after a similar proposed law was previously vetoed by former Governor Jerry Brown.
Also known as the “College Student Right to Access Act,” if passed, would be effective in 2023.
It would each Cal State and UC campus in California to provide medical abortion options, such as the abortion pill, through student health centers or clinics on the college campuses for students who are no more than 10 weeks pregnant.
The proposed law could be implemented only if at least $10,290,000 in private money is made available to fund it, according to the text of the bill.
Sponsors of the bill included ACCESS Women’s Health Justice, the American Civil Liberties Union of California, ACT for Women and Girls, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, NARAL Pro-Choice for California, Students United for Reproductive Justice at UC Berkeley and Women’s Foundation of California.
Currently, more than 400,000 women students are educated at California’s public universities, and it is central to the mission of the state’s public universities’ health centers to minimize the negative impact of health concerns on students’ studies and facilitate graduation, according to the bill.
“While some legislators of the state are actively turning their backs on the needs of women, I thank my Senate Education Committee colleagues for approving SB-24, which supports the academic and personal success of college students,” Leyva said in a recent news release. “SB-24 is a clear step forward for Californians seeking to access their constitutionally protected right to abortion, including students on college campuses.”
Leyva said students should not have to delay medical care, travel long distances or miss school when abortion medications could be offered on campus by health experts.
According to the news release, research shows that abortion has a success rate of over 95% and serious complications have a 0.3 percent chance of occurring.
The abortion medication would be given in two doses. The student would take the first dose in the presence of a health care provider and the second dose would be sent home with the student to take 24 to 48 hours after the first dose. Most patients can return to normal activities one to two days after taking the full medication and must return for a follow-up appointment with the health care provider one to two weeks after the initial appointment to ensure the abortion.
Janice Deguerio, sophomore biology and psychology major, said the bill could serve as a new start for women in unfavorable situations.
“Women in college don’t have sex thinking that they want to get pregnant,” Deguerio said. “In some incidences, women are not in control of the situation, such as rape, and having access to abortion medication on their campus could facilitate the situation for them.”
Deguerio said that although the bill could cause some backlash from opposing legislators, it could also create conversation about a “taboo” topic among other states.
“Having bills like these make women feel much more comfortable when dealing and talking about unplanned pregnancies with health professionals,” Deguerio said. “California could lead the conversation on abortion to other states and, at the very least, address the issue.”
Katelyn Valdovinos, freshman biology major, said a woman’s rights to her body should be respected and protected, especially when it comes to pregnancies.
“Women have rights to their bodies and women at this age are not necessarily ready to raise a child,” Valdovinos said. “We’re not technically fully developed until 22 and to not only have abortion as an option but as a nearby, accessible option is something many women in college need.”
HerCampus, a media site designated to empower college women, conducted a research project where more than 2,000 college women were surveyed on what their thoughts were on abortion. The poll results showed that 75% of college women were pro-choice, 21% as pro-life and 4% were unsure. Of those same women, 69% said they would help a friend who wanted an abortion.
Valdovinos also said that although both the father and mother of the child have a say in the future of the pregnancy, it is the woman who will undergo any process, whether it be the nine months of pregnancy or the abortion, and therefore ultimately up to her to decide what to do with the child.
“I see people arguing over the child’s rights, but, in this case, women have more right to decide what happens with the child than men because it isn’t men’s’ bodes we’re dealing with,” Valdovinos said. “Many men tend to leave, especially when they are about to become fathers at such a young age, and the full responsibility is left to the woman.”
Julyssa Ceballos, freshman psychology major at UC Davis, said that the bill could call attention to the social issue of women’s rights and provide a chance to stay on track for women in college with unplanned pregnancies.
“The bill could help show that women should have their own voice and that many women, especially in college, need this sort of help,” Ceballos said. “Oftentimes with unplanned pregnancies, women drop out of college and live a life they did not have planned.”
Unplanned pregnancies account for nearly one out of 10 dropouts among female students in college and 7% of dropouts among college students overall, according to the Pregnant On Campus Initiative, a website for pregnant and parenting college students.
Much of the fear that comes with having an abortion can also be reduced by having easier access to the medication, Ceballos said.
Joceline Baez-Figueroa, freshman biological science major at UC Davis, said that by offering abortion medications on college campus, young women in college can have a wider range of opportunities when making their decision.
“Many women in college aren’t aware of the options that are available for unplanned pregnancies or don’t fully understand the options,” Figueroa said. “If the school provides these options, it is much easier for the health providers to give them accurate information about how abortion actually works and the details of the process.”
Although she does not see a downside to the bill, Figueroa said parents of college students can interpret the use of abortion medications on a college campus.
“If a parent was touring the school and they enter a health center and see that the school is providing students with these medications, they can be led to believe that the school supports abortion when that isn’t necessarily the case,” Figueroa said.
Andrea Dukes, a University of La Verne alumna, said that although SB-24 could provide easier access to abortion medications, there is still a lack of language about the actual costs of the medication.
“The costs of these pills can be thousands of dollars which is not something college students can realistically afford,” Dukes said. “If this bill is centered on access, economic access should be understood as well.”
An abortion medication can cost from $300 to $800, according to the American Pregnancy association. Lab work, office visits and different regions of the country can affect the price as well.
The bill’s text does not specify the cost of abortion medications on college campuses or how the medications will be distributed.
In regards to the federal controversy on abortion, Dukes said that the bill would not create a change in terms of conversation about abortion on a federal level.
“California has had pro-choice legislation for a long time and when the first started making these laws, it probably made some impact but I don’t think it will anymore,” Dukes said. “Other states may adopt similar ideas but, other than that, not much will occur.”
Cal State and UC universities refused to speak about the issue.
Alondra Campos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.