California SB 24 approved by Senate committee, to give students on UC, CSU campuses access to medical abortion

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California state SB 24 — the “College Student Right to Access Act”— was approved by the Senate Health Committee on Wednesday in a seven-to-three vote.

SB 24, introduced by Senator Connie Leyva, D-Chino, in December 2018, would give students on CSU and UC campuses access to medical abortions, also known as nonsurgical abortion or the “abortion pill.”

The bill is a continuation of Leyva’s earlier legislature in the same field. She introduced SB 320 in 2017, which had similar provisions to SB 24. SB 320, however, was vetoed by then-governor Jerry Brown in 2018.

“SB 24 is an important step toward ensuring the right to abortion is available to all Californians and that our college students don’t face unnecessary barriers,” Leyva said in a statement on her website. “Students should not have to travel off campus or miss class or work responsibilities in order to receive care that can easily be provided at a student health center.”

SB 24 has its origins at UC Berkeley, with the Students United for Reproductive Justice at Berkeley organization, or SURJ. Its goal was to create a “less complicated and more accessible process of getting medication abortion,” according to Phoebe Abramowitz, campus senior and director of SURJ.

SURJ received support from the Women’s Policy Institute, part of the Women’s Foundation of California, which helped connect the organization to Leyva and bring the issue to the state level, according to Abramowitz.

The discussion about the bill also includes barriers specific to particular demographics on campus.

“Right now, students do not have equitable access to health care, and it disproportionately affects students of color and low-income (students),” Abramowitz said.

Jessy Rosales, a former UC Riverside student and coordinator for the justCARE campaign, was forced to navigate cumbersome, confusing referrals to off-site abortion clinics when she could not get an abortion at her student health center.  

Medical abortion services would be available to students who seek to terminate pregnancy during the first 10 weeks and would be provided by the Tang Center.

Abramowitz explained how SURJ went through “extensive talks” with the Tang Center administration, which was ultimately supportive.

“No one should have to wait three months to end a pregnancy when they could get the abortion pill right on campus within a week of learning that they are pregnant,” Rosales said in a hearing.

According to the UCSF Health website, medical abortions are 95 to 98 percent effective.

SB 24, which would be implemented by Jan. 1, 2023, ensures that each student health care services clinic offers abortion by medication techniques, according to the bill text.

“Students are really, really supportive of SB 24,” Abramowitz said. “Students don’t need to accept a watered-down definition of pro-choice — we can and must demand actual equitable access for all of us.”

Contact Marlena Tavernier-Fine at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @MarlenaTF_DC.

Clarification(s):
A previous version of this article may have implied that Senate Bill 24 has already been signed into law. In fact, the bill was just approved by a senate committee.