UC Berkeley students pen state bill requiring on-campus access to abortion services

Joshua Jordan/Senior Staff

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In spring 2016, campus senior Adiba Khan urged the campus to offer medical abortion services at the Tang Center — now, the same request is being put forth in SB 320, which was introduced February 2017 and read in the California State Senate again Jan. 22.

The bill would mandate all state public university health centers to offer medical abortion services. Khan co-founded the student organization Students United for Reproductive Justice, or SURJ, and in addition to contributing to the 2016 ASUC resolution urging the Tang Center to make medical abortion services available, she also helped write the Senate bill with SURJ co-directors Marandah Field-Elliot and Phoebe Abramowitz.

The earliest the Senate bill could be signed into law is Sept. 30, 2018, according to Khan, but the timeline is uncertain, as the bill still needs to be introduced into the state Assembly.

“SURJ attempted to convince Berkeley administration to have it as a service and even secured $240,000 through the Wellness fund for implementation and yet they still denied us our request,” Khan said in an email.

Although the Tang Center does not provide medical abortion services, it offers contraceptives, the “morning-after pill” and “referrals to nearby abortion services,” according to campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore.

Gilmore added in an email that nearby services and hospitals could not only provide medical abortion pills but also perform medical procedures in case complications arose.

According to Khan’s email, the bill does not mandate contraceptive distribution because both the UC and CSU systems already offer them. She added that the university has the infrastructure to provide abortion services, yet she believes they only refer students to outside medical professionals because of the political nature of abortions.

Additionally, Khan said in an email that the proposed bill will not burden the state financially. The bill’s Senate floor analysis found that most of the costs would need to be paid for by the universities, but Khan mentioned that the Women’s Foundation of California provided a group of funders who pledged to donate a total of $14 million in order to implement this bill statewide.

The bill was introduced to the Senate by State Senator Connie Leyva, D-Chino, who released a press statement affirming her support of the bill and thanking the Senate Education Committee for passing it through.

“Students should not have to travel long distances, pay out of pocket or even miss class or work responsibilities in order to receive health care that can be provided at an on-campus facility that is specifically designed for student health care,” Leyva said in the press release.

While Khan said in her email she does not want to be too optimistic, she said there is reason to be hopeful since the bill has already passed the state Senate’s Health, Education and Appropriations committees.

“It has come a long way and at each stage there was the plausibility it would fail,” Khan said in her email. “It will be introduced to the entire senate next week and we are hoping it passes. If it passes, it will be introduced in the Assembly committees and then the Assembly.”

Rishabh Nijhawan is the lead higher education reporter. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @realRishNij.