California Gov. Jerry Brown ignored the voices of countless college students this week when he vetoed SB 320.
The bill would have required on-campus access to medication abortion in public universities. It would have ensured safe and affordable abortions for thousands of students, guaranteeing that individuals on college campuses who would choose to terminate unwanted pregnancies could do so.
In his veto message, Brown said the bill is “not necessary,” stating that students only typically have to travel five to seven miles to secure abortion services. He asserted that this is “not an unreasonable distance.” But five to seven miles can mean hours of commuting from college campuses, which can be especially difficult since many students have work and classes and often depend on public transportation. The cost of implementing this bill was already fully covered — all Brown had to do was sign it to provide students with an essential service.
Brown will never be a college student who needs an abortion. Students across the state who do need access to this service made their demands for this bill more than explicit. In fact, the bill was originally drafted by three UC Berkeley students. From the beginning, SB 320 was a student movement — students pushed it into the Senate and advocated for it.
Those who are most directly impacted by this bill have said time and again that it is necessary — and Brown, as evidenced by his tone-deaf explanation for vetoing the bill, chose not to listen.
In the past, Brown has claimed to be a progressive politician in favor of abortion rights. But when it came time to follow up his words with action, he failed miserably.
SB 320 is not the only bill Brown vetoed this week. He also vetoed SB 1449, which would have mandated that rape kits in California be processed within 120 days. There are more than 13,615 untested rape kits in this state — a horrific backlog that could have been addressed with a single signature. Although Brown passed a separate bill requiring an audit of untested rape kits, it does nothing to guarantee concrete action for survivors.
Until recently, Brown has very rarely vetoed bills that have come to his desk. The fact that that the two he vetoed this week are both bills that would have provided fundamental services sends a shocking message to his constituents. When The Daily Californian’s editorial board expressed support for SB 320 last month, the possibility that Brown would so blatantly ignore the expressed needs of students in California was unimaginable.
Instead, Brown has continued the long-standing tradition of men in power making problematic decisions about other individuals’ bodies.