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California Ensures Abortion Access For College Students In National First

Alejandra Salazar
Abortion rights advocates rally to protest new restrictions on abortions, May 21, 2019, in West Hollywood, California. – Demonstrations were planned across the US on Tuesday in defense of abortion rights, which activists see as increasingly under attack. The “Day of Action” rallies come after the state of Alabama passed the country’s most restrictive abortion ban, prohibiting the procedure in all cases, even rape and incest, unless the mother’s life is at risk. Alabama is among about 14 states which have adopted laws banning or drastically restricting access to abortion, according to activists. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

California will be the first state in the U.S. to require access to abortion medication on its public university campuses.

The new law was signed Friday by Gov. Gavin Newsom. Under Senate Bill 24, the College Student Right to Access Act, schools in the University of California and California State University systems will be required to make medical abortions available to students on site. The law will go into effect in 2023.

Medical abortions are a nonsurgical way to end a pregnancy. The procedure differs from the morning-after pill, which typically uses a hormone similar to those in birth control pills to delay or stop the release of an egg. A medical abortion takes place within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy and involves inducing a miscarriage with prescription pills.

Currently, public universities offer gynecological exams, birth control, pregnancy counseling, and other healthcare, but student health centers refer students to off-campus facilities for abortion services, the Los Angeles Times reports. Supporters of the SB-24 say this bill supports many students, especially low-income and first-generation students who are unable to pay for the medication out of pocket and do not have ready access to a car or other means of transportation. 

About 322 to 519 California public university students seek medical abortions every month, according to a 2018 study in the Journal of Adolescent Health. The average cost of medication was $604, and up to 62% of students were more than 30 minutes via public transit from the closest off-campus abortion facility. The study also found the average wait time for the first available abortion appointment was one week. 

Previous iterations of SB-24 have been introduced by state Sen. Connie Leyva. It was vetoed last year by then-Gov. Jerry Brown, who said abortion services were “widely available” off-campus and “not necessary.” Newsom, Brown’s then-lieutenant governor and gubernatorial candidate, said he would have signed the bill, per The San Francisco Chronicle.

“As other states and the federal government go backward, restricting reproductive freedom, in California we are moving forward, expanding access and reaffirming a woman’s right to choose,” Newsom said in a statement.

Organizations including Planned Parenthood and NARAL applauded the move. “Elections have consequences. While Trump and his male cronies roll back the fundamental rights of women, in California, WOMEN are leading the charge to expand them,” NARAL Pro-Choice California wrote on Twitter. “Thank you @GavinNewsom for your leadership and for standing with women! #SB24 #AbortionCareonCampus.”

“Super excited about all the reproductive freedom bills that got signed today, like SB 24! Now UC and CSU students can access #abortioncareoncampus!” Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California tweeted. “Thank you @SenatorLeyva and @JustCare, and thousands of campus advocates, for your leadership in advancing abortion access.”

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