Students lobby in Sacramento for bill requiring access to abortion services on campus

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Nearly 40 students from 14 different universities gathered in Sacramento to lobby the state Assembly on Monday to support a bill that would require all public university health centers in California to offer medical abortion services.

Students from UC Berkeley, UCLA, Mills College, Humboldt State University and Fresno State University, among other schools, were in attendance to support SB 320, according to Dey Nava, manager of the Just CARE: Campus Action for Reproductive Equity campaign.

The bill passed in the state Senate in January, Nava said, and must go through the Committee on Higher Education and the Committee on Health before reaching the Assembly’s floor. On Monday, students met with Assembly members from both of these committees to explain the bill and answer any of the legislators’ potential questions.

“We want to uplift student narratives and recenter the debate around abortion access,” said Phoebe Abramowitz, a Just CARE organizer and co-director of Students United for Reproductive Justice, or SURJ, which helped write the bill. “Everyone’s learning a lot about the legislative process. It’s exciting to get students from all across the state together.”

Nava said students led the lobbying effort because the bill “directly affects them.”

The bill is inspired by a 2016 ASUC resolution that urged the Tang Center to make medical abortion services available and was written by UC Berkeley students. SURJ members also helped to write the Senate bill currently under consideration.

None of the UC or CSU campuses currently offer abortion services, according to a study conducted by Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health, or ANSIRH, a collaborative research group at UCSF. The same study found that 22 UC and CSU campuses are more than 30 minutes away via public transportation from the nearest abortion provider, and that 85 percent of abortion providers near campuses are not open on weekends.

“(The bill) will drastically improve access for students who have to go through financial, logistical and institutional barriers,” said Marandah Field-Elliot, another Just CARE campus organizer and co-director of SURJ who also helped write the bill.

Field-Elliot said medical abortion services are “incredibly medically simple to provide,” and a separate ANSIRH study found that the staffing, facility and equipment requirements to provide medical abortion services are “minimal.”

A public opinion poll conducted by Just CARE found that 60 percent of Californians supported providing a full range of reproductive care on college campuses, including the abortion pill. Abramowitz said a consortium of private funders have committed to paying for the bill’s implementation if it is passed, and added that the state of California already recognizes abortion as health care.

“The overwhelming majority of students we’ve talked to are in favor,” Abramowitz said. “There’s really no other reason, besides stigma, that this should not be a standard.”

Anjali Shrivastava covers academics and administration. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @anjalii_shrivas.