Health

Bill would require state colleges to provide medical abortions

State Sen. Connie Leyva (D-Chino) says her bill was inspired in part by a campaign for access to medical abortions by students at UC Berkeley.
State Sen. Connie Leyva (D-Chino) says her bill was inspired in part by a campaign for access to medical abortions by students at UC Berkeley.
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A bill in the California legislature would require all public universities and community colleges in the state to provide medical abortions at student health centers. 

Sen. Connie Leyva (D- Chino) introduced the measure; she said it's important to make medical abortions available on campus. 

"If you have to travel off campus in order to receive this medication its going to be too costly, sometimes its too far to go, and it’s already a stressful situation," she said. "So why make it more stressful?"

Medical abortions are a common way to end a pregnancy in its early stages using two pills. The first pill, mifepristone, stops the pregnancy from developing and the second, misoprostol, causes bleeding that empties the uterus. Both drugs are included on the World Health Organization's Model List of Essential Medicines, which lists safe and effective medications.

The 10 University of California campuses, 23 Cal State University schools and around 70 community colleges have student health centers. The UC System, The California State University and the California Community Colleges System have yet to take positions on the bill. 

The State Senate's Republican Caucus did not respond to a request for comment on the legislation.

The bill had been prompted in part by a campaign at UC Berkeley for access to medical abortions, said Leyva. Since 2015, Students United for Reproductive Justice at Berkeley have been pressing the school administration to offer medical abortions at the student health center, so far unsuccessfully. 

Adiba Khan, director of Students United, said she was "ecstatic" that the group's work had contributed to to the bill. 

She said the bill would make a significant difference to students attending more isolated campuses.

The health center at UC Berkeley provides a range of sexual and reproductive health services, but students have to go to other providers for medical abortions, said Khan.

"Why isn't abortion considered an integral part of sexual and reproductive health services?" she asked.

Sara Spriggs ,a Women's Policy Institute Fellow with the Women's Foundation of California, said state schools may not provide medical abortion on their campuses due to "caution about providing a service that's politicized." The Women's Foundation is a co-sponsor of the bill.

Leyva said she expected opposition "from the usual suspects … Some folks won’t see that women should have complete control over their bodies."

The California ProLife Council opposes the bill, said Chairman Brian Johnston. "There’s a unique human being’s life that’s ended. That’s why we care," he said.