The California Senate has passed S.B. 320, which would require all University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) campus health centers to offer the two-pill regimen for a chemical abortion. The bill has been the center of attention for many California public university students both in favor of as well as in opposition of the bill.
The bill was introduced to the California senate by Sen. Connie Levya last year. After the latest revision this January, S.B. 320 was given to the Committees of Health and Higher Education and will be heard in the House Assembly on June 12, 2018.
Students lobbying for the bill are primarily concerned about access to abortion, saying the bill will eliminate “financial, logistical, and institutional barriers” to abortion.
The bill itself frames the issue as affording students increased access to abortion, which “can help them stay on track to achieve their educational and career goals.” Many proponents of chemical abortions believe the two-pill regimen allows a woman to have an abortion safely and privately.
Students protesting the bill are worried about students’ safety, the cost of implementing the bill, the possibility of student fees having to cover the cost, the subsequent violation of conscience, and the lack of other pregnancy resources on campus.
Proponents assert access to abortion needs to be enhanced. However, all UC and CSU campuses are within an average of six miles of medical abortion providers. The access is already available.
The bill’s language insinuates women need abortion to be able to graduate from college and progress successfully in life. As a woman, I find this highly offensive. Claiming ending a pregnancy is possibly a woman’s best option to have a fulfilling life is blatantly disregarding the capability women possess, as well as neglecting to support us in all our options.
Chemical abortion is touted as being extremely safe and having the additional perk of being able to be completed in the comfort and privacy of one’s home. However, a chemical abortion is not without health risks. In fact, 22 women have died as a result. RU-486 (mifepristone) causes bleeding for an average of nine-16 days and heavy bleeding (more than an average period) for an average of two days. The second pill (misoprostol) causes heavy cramping to expel the preborn child.
Patients are recommended to be in a comfortable environment near a bathroom. However, as one female UCSD student pointed out, the dorms on campus have 24 people to a bathroom which holds only three toilets and four showers. Female students will not have a 'relaxed, private experience' like the bill’s proponents assert. In the case of adverse side effects, university health centers are not equipped to handle emergencies.
Cost is another consideration. Proponents claim student fees will not have to cover the costs of providing the pill because “a private donor has pledged to cover all the costs.” While this may be true, it is only temporary.
The bill does not prohibit universities from including the cost in student health fees, which if implemented would be a violation of the rights of conscience in regards to dissenting students and infringe upon those students’ federal protections for such opposition. Not to mention liability suits for adverse side effects from the abortion pill could cost universities many thousands of dollars as well.
Finally, is this really about access? Most university health centers already provide pregnancy testing and a range of contraceptive services, while referring out for abortions and prenatal care because they are simply not equipped to handle such services.
Most do not have the capacity to perform ultrasounds, so a student would not be able to receive information on the gestational age of her baby while at a university health center, or know if she has an ectopic pregnancy. This bill would provide one option for post-conception services on-campus. That is it.
There is no talk about holistic women’s health services, improving access to prenatal care or adoption services, or reforming student policies to help pregnant and parenting students realize they can achieve their educational goals.
When a student health center covers on-campus, free services for pregnancy prevention, testing, and termination, but no services for women who choose to keep their child, it is an ideological bias, not an array of options.
The universities originally were against the bill for financial and liability reasons, but they have now established they have no official position. It is up to the pro-life students on UC and CSU campuses to continue to rally together, protest, and contact their university chancellors and House representatives. California is set to establish a precedent other states are waiting to follow. Let us help them set one which honors life by dismissing this bill.