A rally was held in Sacramento on Tuesday to support the passage of SB 24, which would require all campus student health centers at public universities in California to offer medical abortions.
Spearheaded by the Campus Action for Reproductive Equity, or justCARE, the event, “Trust Students: Provide, Expand, Demand,” featured storytelling, musical performances and speakers from reproductive health, rights and justice movements.
Activists, students, state lawmakers and other justCARE supporters celebrated the bill’s progress and rallied state Assemblymembers and California Gov. Gavin Newsom.
“We are here to urge elected officials to pass SB 24 and we wanted participants to have fun, be motivated, and be part of something special,” said Noël Jones, a student lobbyer and executive member of Students United for Reproductive Justice. “(SB 24) will not only help women get an abortion but also nonbinary people because the language is gender-neutral, so we won’t turn away anyone who needs an abortion.”
SB 24 was introduced by California State Senator Connie Leyva, D-Chino, in December 2018, passed by the Senate Health Committee in April 2019 and again passed by the Assembly Appropriations Committee in August. The bill is now awaiting an Assembly vote in order to reach Newsom’s desk.
According to University Health Services spokesperson Tami Cate, the Tang Center “fully support(s)” the right of choice and currently provides contraceptives such as birth control and the “morning-after” pill. Tang also offers referrals to facilities for abortion services. Cate added that there are four facilities within four miles of campus that provide medication abortion pills or perform surgical abortions.
UC Santa Barbara graduate Zoe Murray spoke at the event about her experience as a college student who sought abortion services. As a sophomore, Murray faced an unwanted pregnancy and went to the student health center at UCSB.
Murray ultimately had to go to an off-campus provider that was a 45-minute bus ride away from campus. SB 24 is “necessary,” according to Murray, because there are students who do not have access to cars and who cannot afford to defer time from school, jobs or family responsibilities to access abortion services and receive care.
“I joined the justCARE campaign because I knew from experience how necessary SB24 is,” Murray said in an email. “California campus representatives, UC and CSU Regents, need to create campus-wide policies that would verify that nurses know how to distribute medication abortion, fix the flawed clinic-referral program, and guarantee all students — regardless of their type of insurance — have the access we need.”
In a letter to UC faculty and staff endorsees, UC President Janet Napolitano stated that students should have access to “affordable and convenient” reproductive health care and that the UC will continue to work with policymakers to ensure accessible health care for students. Napolitano added that the UC will work to implement provisions of SB 24 at campus health care centers “as soon as possible.”
ASUC External Affairs Vice President Varsha Sarveshwar said in an email that she is “proud” to support SB 24 on behalf of the ASUC. Sarveshwar added that while abortion services are not accessible to everyone, Californians are “lucky” to live in a state that does not “criminalize abortion.”
“It’s my understanding that the average college student in California needs to travel 5-7 miles to access abortion services,” Sarveshwar said in an email. “For students who are taking a full schedule of classes, working part-time, and/or lack the financial resources to travel to an abortion provider, this is a serious problem.”