California Senate advances bill mandating on-campus abortion pill access

(Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)Pro-choice protesters demonstrate in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington March 2, 2016.

The California Senate has approved a legislation that would require college health centers to provide abortion pills to students.

State Senate Bill 320, sponsored by Sen. Connie Leyva (D-Chino), would require all health centers within the University of California and California State University (CSU) systems to stock abortion pills and be prepared to provide the drug by 2022, according to NPR.

Leyva contended that the bill is necessary to help college students who may have to travel off campus to obtain an abortion or pay for it themselves.

"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," Leyva said. "After all, women do not lose the constitutional right to end a pregnancy simply because they are a college student," she added.

The campaign for the bill began in 2016, when the student government at University of California, Berkeley approved a resolution that called the health center on campus to include abortion pill in its services.

Members of the group reportedly met with the health center administration as well as university leaders in an attempt to make the abortion drug available at the health center, but their request was denied.

"When they were denied, they brought the issue to us, and I thought that this was something that young women should have access to, because it is their constitutional right," Leyva said.

CSU officials expressed concern that the legislation would impose severe costs for liability insurance, safety improvements, medical training and round-the-clock phone support for medical emergencies.

"Currently our CSU health centers offer basic health services, however, the administration of medications still requires a level of expertise that our health center staff may not have," said Toni Molle, a spokeswoman for the CSU chancellor's office.

According to Bakersfield Now, the Tara Foundation in San Francisco, the Women's Foundation of California and another donor have agreed to cover the implementation costs estimated between $14 million and $20 million.

Medication abortion can be administered up to 10 weeks into a pregnancy and involves two drugs — mifepristone and misoprostol. The first drug is administered in the clinic and the second is given to the patient to take later at home.

The bill's sponsors have estimated that between 10 and 17 women would try to obtain medication abortion each month on each UC campus, while around nine to 15 will seek the pill at each CSU school.

California is the only state that is considering such a measure, but Elizabeth Nash, a senior state issues analyst at the Guttmacher Institute, noted that the bill is in line with the state's previous policies.

The state requires all health insurers to provide abortion coverage, and it also forces pro-life pregnancy centers to advertise state-funded abortions to their clients.

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