California university students might soon have more access to abortion procedures if the state legislature votes to approves Senate Bill 320, which would require all California public universities to provide students with hormonal pills for abortions.
The bill was approved by the California Senate on Monday, Jan. 29.
If the bill is approved by the Assembly and signed by Governor Jerry Brown, all University of California and California State University campuses — including UC Santa Barbara — will offer the pills by Jan. 1, 2022.
Medically-induced abortions using pills are carried out via hormonal treatment, avoiding physical entry into the uterus. The procedure is available up to six weeks after conception, but is more effective the earlier it is applied.
Two drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol, are orally ingested in pill form to make the uterine lining hostile to pregnancy and expel the conceived fetus. For many students, this medically-induced method is favorable over surgical abortions, which are commonly regarded as invasive and require extensive downtime for recovery.
The bill originated from a movement spearheaded by UC Berkeley’s Students United for Reproductive Justice (SURJ), an association founded by Berkeley Sociology alum Adiba Khan.
Following Berkeley’s initiative, Democrat Sen. Connie Leyva proposed SB320 in Feb. 2017 in order to bring the movement for accessible reproductive healthcare to all California public universities.
“Abortion care is a constitutional right and an integral part of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care,” the bill reads.
In the bill, Leyva states that her goal is to make abortion methods accessible to all who require pregnancy termination mifepristone — specifically students.
“When pregnant young people decide that abortion is the best option for them, having early, accessible care can help them stay on track to achieve their educational and other aspirational life plans,” she added in the bill.
Planned Parenthood, a non-profit clinic that offers abortion services, supports Leyva’s goal to increase access to abortion.
“We have our statewide organization that’s working closely with legislators to support SB320,” said Julie Mickleberry, Vice President of Community Engagement at Planned Parenthood of California Central Coast. The California Central Coast branch also oversees Planned Parenthood’s Santa Barbara center.
Mickleberry explained that the legislation is beneficial because “access to safe abortion care is an essential part of basic reproductive healthcare.”
Funding will come, in part, from a Medication Abortion Implementation Fund, which SB320 would establish and designate as the State Treasurer’s responsibility. However, SB320 does not specify how campuses should fully finance the implementation.
UCSB’s Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) is a conservative campus organization that holds a strong pro-life stance. Funding is one of YAF’s primary concerns with the bill. .
“We don’t want our student tuition dollars to be going towards something we don’t believe in or support,” said Kai Baltgalvis, a third-year political science major and member of YAF. “It’s kind of the same thing as using tax dollars to go towards Planned Parenthood.”
YAF also worries about the ease of access to abortion that the legislation would provide and the “normalizing” of abortion on college campuses.
According to the Student Health website, UCSB’s gynecological clinical services include birth control methods and walk-in pregnancy tests among other women’s health services such as Plan B, but not on-campus abortion methods.
“These services require expertise and experience that we do not have available here,” Mary Ferris, M.D., Executive Director of UCSB Student Health Services, said in an email.
“Students have found Planned Parenthood to be a convenient and confidential location for this very personal service, so UCSB Student Health has not seen any need to provide it here on campus,” she added.
Commonly referred to as the “morning-after pill,” Plan B can be effective up to five days after intercourse and is not an abortion pill, but is offered over the counter at the UCSB Student Health Pharmacy to all women and men over the age of 17.
Ferris added that UCSB’s Student Health Services does offer other forms of support.
“We treat all students confidentially with compassion and respect, and offer them all possible options for unplanned pregnancies,” she said. “We can also provide referrals to other locations and for ongoing pregnancy care if desired. We always offer emotional support and ongoing counseling if needed, as well.”
UCSB refers students seeking abortions to Planned Parenthood or other off-campus sites. Planned Parenthood’s Santa Barbara Center is located approximately 9 miles away from the campus.
According to Mickleberry, students who are referred to clinics face financial barriers, as well as lack of access to transportation.
“Over half of students across the UC and CSU system are low-income based or on eligibility for Cal Grants, which means a large and alarming number of these students face food and housing insecurities, so I think it’s a really important service to be able to provide for students,” she said.
Mickleberry believes passage of the bill would offer significant benefits to students seeking abortions that are currently unavailable when students are referred to Planned Parenthood. She estimated that without SB320, students face a wait time of about one week before external clinics have availability to provide aid in abortion services.
“[The delay] could make the student ineligible for medication abortion due to increased costs and side effect risks,” she said.
According to Baltgalvis, YAF believes the current process of accessing abortion services, including such barriers, encourages students to take the matter seriously.
If the legislation goes through, Baltgalvis expects student body response to be largely neutral, though he believes that YAF and other conservative campus organizations will express negative responses.
“I think student organizations like mine are going to be the most vocally against it,” he said. “We haven’t had anything concrete planned yet but we’ve talked about coming out and doing demonstrations.”
Young Americans for Liberty, a conservative campus group, has not expressed an official stance on abortion.
Organizations at other Californian universities, including Fresno State Students for Life, have already staged protests.
Correction: Young Americans for Liberty and the College Republicans were not contacted for comment on the bill, so Baltgalvis’s reference to the organizations has been removed from the article.
Update: This article was updated to reflect that Young Americans for Liberty does not take a stance on abortion.