Sacramento-area state schools are weighing in on a controversial bill that was approved by the state Senate Monday. It would require public universities to offer medication abortion to college students.
California would be the first state to require schools to offer non-surgical abortions. The bill, SB320, still needs Assembly approval.
None of the 34 University of California or California State University campuses currently offer abortion services at their health centers, instead referring students to outside providers. A group of private donors, some of them anonymous, plan to pay for up to $20 million in startup costs, including ultrasound equipment and training for both medical and billing staff.
The bill would require all university campuses to offer the service by 2022, assuming the donors come through with the money. Medication abortion can be administered up to 10 weeks into a pregnancy.
“I firmly believe that all students should be able to decide what to do with their own bodies and when to factor a family into their life,” the bill’s author Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, said. “After all, women do not lose the constitutional right to end a pregnancy simply because they are a college student.”
One medication is administered in the clinic and a patient is given a second drug to take later at home. The medications induce bleeding similar to a miscarriage, according to legislative records.
The bill’s supporters say time is of the essence for women seeking a medication abortion, which must occur within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. Dispensing the medication on campus will ensure that women have access to it even if they don’t have a car or have trouble fitting an outside appointment into their school schedule, Leyva said. Outside providers also may not accept student health insurance plans.
But CSU officials worry the mandate would impose severe costs for liability insurance, safety improvements, medical training and round-the-clock phone support for medical emergencies, said Toni Molle, a spokesperson for the CSU chancellor’s office.
“Currently, our CSU health centers offer basic health services,” Molle said. “However, the administration of medications still requires a level of expertise that our health center staff may not have.”
The University of California said in a statement it has not taken a position.
The bill’s sponsors estimate that 10 to 17 women would seek a medication abortion per month on each UC campus, and nine to 15 at each CSU school.
Pro-life advocate Brad Dacus is the founder of Pacific Justice Institute. He thinks the bill is a bad idea.
“Instead of putting their resources for colleges where they should go, with greater education, they’re going to make it as quick and easy as possible for women in crisis to have an abortion,” Dacus said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.