The California Senate passed a bill Monday that requires the state’s public universities to provide abortion pills for students, allowing them to access medication abortions during the first ten weeks of pregnancy.
None of California’s 34 public university campuses offer abortion at their health centers currently, instead referring students to outside providers. However, a group of private donors are planning to pay up to $20 million in equipment, training, and staffing costs to offer the services on campuses.
The legislation would require all university campuses to offer the service by 2022, once these donors have financed the implementation.
Democratic Senator Connie M. Leyva, who authored the bill, claims that it is needed to avoid the delays students may face in traveling off campus to obtain abortions given the brief window of time during which a woman can obtain a medication abortion.
“Many women do not find out they are pregnant until several weeks into their pregnancy so on-campus access to medication abortion services before they reach ten weeks of pregnancy is vital,” Senator Leyva said. “SB 320 would ensure that medication abortion is available to students at university student health centers so that they may access those services if they so choose. College students should not have to delay medical care and travel many miles away from their work and school responsibilities to access to this constitutionally protected right.”
“If a student chooses to end her pregnancy, the safest time to do so is within the first ten weeks,” she added.
However, California State University officials have raised concerns that this mandate could lead to exorbitant liability, safety, and medical costs. Toni Molle, a spokeswoman for the CSU chancellor's office, told the Associated Press that the requirement may not be reasonable given the resources available.
"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," Molle said.
The bill is also facing opposition from some conservative groups in the state. Anna Arend, the Northern California regional coordinator for Students for Life of America, testified during a Senate education committee hearing on the bill about its dangers.
"These students have formed a coalition to oppose SB 320 due to the horrible realities of RU 486, the abortion by medication technique,” she said, “and the dangers that it would bring to their campus. And the simple fact that abortion pills are not a factor in student success.”
California Family Council CEO Jonathan Keller told LifeNews that “not only will this bill destroy the lives of innocent children, but the chemical abortion medication being mandated has a notorious reputation for being very painful and traumatic. These drugs are known for not just causing physical pain to the mother, but psychological anguish that could last a lifetime.”
The legislation still needs approval from the California assembly.