UC Berkeley student-written bill requiring on-campus access to abortion passes state senate

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Amanda Hart/File

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A bill penned by UC Berkeley students was passed by the California Senate on Monday, putting the state one step closer to requiring all public universities to offer medical abortion services.

None of the University of California or California State University campuses currently offer abortion services, instead referring students to outside providers, according to Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health, or ANSIRH, a collaborative research group at UC San Francisco.

“Once I started seeing how strong the student support was across the state … I started to become very hopeful,” said Phoebe Abramowitz, campus junior and co-director of Students United for Reproductive Justice, or SURJ.

SB 320 would require all public universities in California to offer medication abortions, consisting of two pills that can be administered up to 10 weeks into a pregnancy, according to Abramowitz, who helped pen the bill.

SB 320 is headed to the state Assembly next. If the bill is passed by the Assembly’s higher education, health and appropriation committees, it will be sent to the general Assembly for approval. Gov. Jerry Brown will then have until Sept. 30 to sign SB 320 into law, and if he does, it will be fully implemented by 2022, according to campus senior Adiba Khan, co-founder of SURJ and co-writer of the bill.

“I can’t imagine why it would fail in the Assembly,” Khan said. “After all the Senate committees and Senate itself passed it, I feel that the future of this is more optimistic than I anticipated.”

If the bill passes, up to 519 medication abortions could be performed each month across UC and CSU campuses, according to ANSIRH.

A group of private donors, some of whom are anonymous, plans to pay for up to $20 million in startup costs, including initial staff training and ultrasound equipment, Abramowitz said.

The bill would not provide direct funding for patients to receive abortions, according to Abramowitz, but will provide funding for campuses to obtain the tools and infrastructure necessary for abortion services.

Brown’s office declined to comment, as the bill is still ongoing legislation.

The bill originally contained a provision that applied SB 320 to state community colleges as well, but the provision was removed by the Senate to avoid increased costs associated with implementing the bill in colleges with less-developed medical infrastructures, Khan said.

Community colleges and private universities, however, would be able to “opt in” to receive funding from the bill to set up abortion services at their campuses if there is enough money left over, according to Abramowitz.

“Other students should be inspired enough to take on an issue they care about,” Khan said. “Even with a lack of experience, they can see a big change.”

Contact Henry Tolchard at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @htolchard.