California May Force Public Colleges to Provide Abortion Pills to Students

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A nurse shows RU486 pills at a family planning clinic. Australia's parliament voted to strip the conservative government of its right to veto women's access to the controversial abortion pill RU486. (Photo: AFP / Manoocher Deghati, File)

California's legislature is considering a bill that, if enacted, would compel student health centers at the state's public colleges to provide abortion pills to female students by 2022.

Known as Senate Bill 320, the Senate Education Committee voted to approve the proposed legislation on Wednesday, which would affect all the campuses of the University of California and California State University.

"More than 400,000 students classified as female are educated at California's public university campuses, and it is central to the mission of California's public university student health centers to minimize the negative impact of health concerns on students' studies and to facilitate retention and graduation," argued the bill.

"The state has an interest in ensuring that every pregnant person in California who wants to have an abortion can obtain access to that care as easily and as early in pregnancy as possible."

The bill calls for the State Treasurer to establish and oversee a Medication Abortion Implementation Fund that will provide public colleges with grants for abortion-inducing drugs.

Senator Connie Leyva, author of SB 320, also called the "College Student Right to Access Act," said in a statement released Wednesday that the Committee's vote of approval helps "to improve the academic success of students."

"SB 320 ensures that university students are able to receive comprehensive health care services on campus—which includes receiving safe medication abortion services without needless delays or obstacles," stated Leyva.

"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."

Having passed the Education Committee, SB 320 will next head to the Senate Appropriations Committee for further consideration.

Pro-life groups are strongly opposed to the bill, with Californians for Life Director Wynette Sills telling the Sacramento Bee that SB 320 is built on a belief that abortion access is out of reach for students the state colleges.

"There is no lack of access," said Sills, noting that the average distance from an abortion clinic to a California state campus is six miles.

"Sen. Leyva's bill is all about abortion, abortion and more abortion rather than addressing the needs of housing and scholarships and adjustable exam schedules and all of those concerns that a young woman would have."

Sills also told the Sacramento Bee that Leyva and others w98ant to improve access, then they should ask abortion clinics "to pay for Uber rides from campus or ask them to stay open late into the evening or ask them to stay open on Saturdays" instead of "creating a legislative mandate upon our university systems that are poorly equipped."

"These student health centers are basically first aid centers with oftentimes just the basic medical infrastructure," added Sills.

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