Bill mandating California public universities provide abortion access heads to Gov. Brown’s desk

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Pending Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature, California may become the first state that requires on-campus access to medication abortion in public universities.

After more than a year of debate over the bill, SB 320, the only hurdle left is the governor’s approval. The bill passed the California State Assembly on Wednesday and went back to the state Senate, where it was passed Thursday morning.

The bill finds its origins on the UC Berkeley campus — members of student group Students United for Reproductive Justice, or SURJ, Adiba Khan, Marandah Field-Elliot and Phoebe Abramowitz drafted SB 320 after the university declined to provide medication abortion services, according to Khan.

“This campaign started with a couple students at Berkeley,” Khan said. “It’s a campaign by students for students.”

State Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, has since authored the state bill now approved by the Legislature. The bill includes funding for implementation.

Currently, the Tang Center provides counseling and referrals but does not provide medication abortion. According to Khan, the last point at which people can receive a medicated abortion — 10 weeks into pregnancy — is so soon after pregnancy is discoverable that students may be “pushed out of the eligibility window” if they need to make multiple visits to different health care providers.

Khan focused on accessibility, noting that traveling to other providers can cause students to miss class or work. She added that lower-income students without access to cars often have higher barriers to abortion access. The passing of SB 320 would make medication abortion services as accessible as any other health service, she said.

Khan, along with the other members of SURJ, turned to state legislature after their 2016 campaign to encourage the university to provide medication abortion services failed. The UC cited lack of funds, even after SURJ secured a $240,000 grant from the Wellness Fund to cover implementation costs, according to Khan. This funding concern has not dissipated, according to the UC Office of the President spokesperson Claire Doan.

“UC agrees with Senator Leyva that students should have access to affordable and convenient reproductive health care,” Doan said in an email. “However … we are concerned that SB 320 does not provide adequate funding to support UC’s student health centers for medication abortion services on site.”

The bill would apply to all UC and California State University campuses. If signed by Brown, public universities would have until January 2022 to provide medication abortions.

“As the federal government continues to roll back critical health care protections and services for women, I am pleased that California is clearly moving in the opposite direction by strengthening access to safe and timely reproductive health care,” Leyva said in a statement.

Contact Madeleine Gregory at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @mgregory_dc.