In defiance of the anti-choice movement consuming U.S. politics, the California Senate just passed Senate Bill 24 to provide medication abortion at statewide public universities by 2023. It now sits on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk with a fast approaching deadline.
Newsom has until Oct. 13 to sign the bill into law. Last year, former Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a similar bill, SB 320. This is Newsom’s opportunity to set a precedent for other states to follow.
Access to medication abortion is an important step forward for reproductive rights. About 519 UC and CSU students seek out medical abortions every month. Currently, students face barriers like cost, travel and wait times. As institutions that pride themselves on student success, UCs and CSUs have a duty to remove these obstacles.
Not only will easy access to medication abortion cut commuting time, it will relieve the psychological trauma associated with visiting abortion clinics, where patients run the risk of encountering anti-abortion protestors standing between patients and the door, slinging insults and misinformation.
Opponents of SB 24 argue it would be a waste of taxpayer dollars. But the bill’s special fund will be sponsored by non-state entities, and organizers have already raised $10.3 million for start-up costs, with each campus being allotted about $200,000. This means taxpayer dollars wouldn’t be used in medication abortion procedures on campus.
The California Department of Finance opposed the bill in its analysis, citing concerns related to cost, lack of expertise and the need for medical billing systems.
The UCSF Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health found implementation is feasible at all UCs and CSUs. The bill’s start-up funds would cover post-abortion follow-up care training, access to ultrasound, security upgrades and maintenance of the 24-hour nurse hotline and backup care.
Some students and university officials are concerned the cost could end up falling on the university and, subsequently, students when the bill’s funding runs out. SB 24 would give UCSC the resources to start this program, but the university needs to commit to following through with a sustained funding plan.
Surely an institution with a budget counted in billions could find a way. Providing no cost medication abortion should actually mean no cost and the UC should commit to protecting access for students for whom reproductive freedom is priceless.
If Newsom signs the bill into law, supporters and UCSC students must ensure the university follows through with its end of the bargain. Referrals work, but healthcare should be as accessible as possible. The UCSC community needs to hold our influential university accountable for the health of its students.
To voice support for this bill before the Oct. 13 deadline, reach out to the UC and call Gov. Newsom at (916) 445-2841.