The abortion pill would be on hand at virtually every public college in California under legislation introduced Friday in the state Senate.
The bill’s inception comes amid renewed attempts to slash funding for Planned Parenthood, which would no longer receive Medicaid reimbursements under the Republican-backed American Health Care Act.
If the health care plan were passed in its current form, $174 million would be slashed from the budget of California’s Planned Parenthood clinics. Although Planned Parenthood is the largest single provider of abortions in the country, it does not use federal money to provide the procedure.
“If those cuts are made, then I do believe this bill takes on a heightened sense of urgency,” state Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino (San Bernardino County), who put forth the bill, told The Chronicle. “Women in 2017 shouldn’t be fighting for access to their bodies.”
Leyva’s legislation — which doesn’t cover surgical abortions — would make the pregnancy-terminating pills available at all University of California, California State University and California Community College campuses that have a student health center that gets funding from the state.
The medication, two pills ingested orally, can be taken only within 10 weeks of a woman’s last period.
Kathy Kneer, president of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, said the medication is safe and effective. Since the Food and Drug Administration approved the pill 16 years ago, 3 million women have taken the abortion pill, she said. Of those, 19 died from complications related to the medication — a mortality rate lower than that of giving birth.
“There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be readily available in student health centers,” Kneer said. “There’s no medical justification.”
The availability of the abortion service on campuses would be the first in the nation. Last year, the elected student leaders of UC Berkeley lobbied the administration to provide the abortion pill at the campus health center, but their demands never came to fruition. UC Berkeley spokespeople said they weren’t available to discuss the matter.
“Because our health center includes a pretty comprehensive amount of sexual and reproductive services, not providing abortions reinforces the idea that abortion is not a part of women’s health, when it absolutely is,” said Adiba Khan, 20, a student who pushed for the service to be offered on campus. “For undergrads and graduate students, abortion is part of their life. It’s normal and should be available as easily and cheaply as possible.”
Khan said friends of hers who took the abortion pills were initially met with financial and academic roadblocks. Those who got their health insurance through the campus first had to meet with a counselor before they could be referred to an outside provider — a potential obstacle for the time-sensitive medication — and often missed class or work to travel to an abortion provider off campus, she said.
Marandah Field-Elliot, a student senator who helped organize the campaign to get the abortion service on campus, said an added bonus if the bill passes the state Legislature would be that UC Berkeley wouldn’t be the sole object of antiabortion activists. Already this year, UC Berkeley’s progressivism put the campus in the crosshairs of President Trump’s tweets when violent protests forced an event featuring controversial speaker Milo Yiannopoulos to be canceled.
“This bill would be so amazing, because it would spread the impacts rather than putting a target right on Berkeley,” Field-Elliot said.