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California Legislature Could Require All Public Universities To Provide Abortion Pills

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In a nation where the US Senate just debated a 20-week abortion ban, seven states have just one abortion provider, and Mike Huckabee compared Planned Parenthood to a heroin dealer, it’s about time for some good news.

Thankfully, California has provided: Last Monday, the Senate passed SB320, a bill that would require all University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) campuses to provide medication abortion on campus. If successful, all 34 campuses would have to provide medication abortions by January 2022—and California would be the first state in the nation to pass progressive legislation of this kind.

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Medication abortion—also known as the abortion pill—is actually two drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol. The pills are taken over two to three days, and can safely terminate a pregnancy up to 10 weeks along. But anti-choice politicians, ever the enemy of “safe” and “easy,” have largely kept the pills off of college campuses. A 2015 survey from the American College Health Association reported that out of the 152 surveyed colleges, only two provided medication abortion on-site.

Forcing students off campus is not only unfair, it also exacerbates existing inequalities. According to an issue brief from the University of California, San Francisco, over 500 UC and CSU students seek off-campus medication abortions each month. But as The Huffington Post reports, over half of the students on those campuses qualify as low-income and more than 60% “would need to spend at least two hours on public transportation to access abortion services.”

With SB320, all of that would change.

The bill originated at the University of California, Berkeley, with a resolution drafted by the co-founder of Students United for Reproductive Justice Adiba Khan. The student government passed Khan’s resolution, but the University denied it.

Undeterred, the group brought the resolution to Sen. Connie Levya, who quickly began working to draft legislation. “I thought this was something that young women should have access to, because it is their constitutional right,” Levya told NPR  this January, almost a year after she first introduced the bill. After overcoming several legislative hurdles, SB320 is now an Assembly vote away from Gov. Brown’s desk.

Unsurprisingly, the pro-life movement has been hard at work to defeat the bill. “Sen. Levya’s bill is all about abortion, abortion, and more abortion,” said director of Californians For Life Wynette Sills in an interview with The Sacramento Bee, “rather than addressing the needs of housing and scholarships and adjustable exam schedules and all of those concerns that a young woman should have.”

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Other detractors argue that the program will be too expensive to implement. But private funders like the Tara Health Foundation and the Women’s Foundation of California have pledged to donate $14 million — and possibly as much as $20 million — to bankroll the implementation of the bill.

If SB320 passes, it will make a strong statement about reproductive rights on college campuses — both in California and across the nation. “We’re really hoping it won’t just be California,” Khan told Splinter. “We hope that this project will succeed in changing the way we all look at abortion.”

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons/jordanuhl7

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Victoria Albert is a Boston-born graduate journalism student. She covers reproductive justice, health policy, and feminism, and has written for In These Times and Alternet. She tweets at @victoria_alb3.

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