Abortion pills will soon be readily and inexpensively available to students at the University of California and California State University under a state law aimed at expanding college students’ access to the medication, a move that has become a focus for anti- – Abortion groups who swear to challenge it.
The pills will be available through on-campus medical centers beginning Jan. 1, 2023, when a 2019 law goes into effect that made California the first state in the nation to require public universities to offer the pills. The move solidifies California’s efforts to become an abortion treatment haven — particularly for a demographic whose age group accounts for the majority of aborted pregnancies. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that advocates for abortion rights, about 60% of abortion patients are in their 20s.
“We knew it was important then, but it’s even more important now,” said Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino), who authored the bill. “Now I think it has a bigger impact.”
Few colleges outside of California — including the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the University of Illinois Chicago — have made the drug available to students or plan to do so, but abortion rights groups hope the new law will be a model for other states. According to a 2018 UC San Francisco report, up to 6,228 UC and CSU students seek medical abortions each year.
Medical termination is a non-surgical method of terminating a pregnancy that involves taking two prescription pills hours apart during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy to induce a miscarriage. It differs from the morning-after pill, which releases a high dose of a synthetic hormone found in birth control pills that delays or stops the release of an egg.
Anti-abortion groups, which had been fighting California’s law, said their fight was far from over. Encouraged by the dismissal of the Roe v. Wade through the US Supreme Court, the groups intend to monitor how the new service is presented and how students are affected by the drugs. Some said they have already hired lawyers to look for a way to challenge the law.
The 2019 law was sparked by a grassroots student initiative at UC Berkeley, but quickly expanded to the state’s other public universities. The timing of the law’s enactment means the UC and CSU will expand access to the pill as California’s abortion clinics grapple with a surge in demand for out-of-state abortion services.
“Not only will it be important for college students, but it also makes room now for other women from other states who will come to have abortions,” Leyva said.
However, university officials are already raising questions about how the changing legal landscape might affect their plans to implement the law. Will other states that have floated the idea of an abortion travel ban affect California? What if a California college student asks for abortion pills at her on-campus health center while at home in a state where the practice is illegal?
Six states have banned abortion, with no exceptions for cases of incest or rape, since the June court ruling, according to a New York Times report on state laws. Two other states offer some rare exceptions. As many as 26 states are “certain or likely” to adopt a total or near-total ban on the process, according to the Guttmacher Institute. The bans do not distinguish between medical abortions – which may involve one pill taken in a doctor’s office and a second pill taken at home – and clinical procedures. Most prohibitions focus on the duration of pregnancy.
“There’s so much that we haven’t thought about because nobody really believed that the Supreme Court would limit rights,” Leyva said. “Hopefully California will lead the way and lead by example.”
Students can schedule telemedicine appointments and have abortion pills sent to them, even during home visits during school holidays.
Questions about the post-trial have surfaced since the Supreme Court ruling, said Annie Sumberg of Essential Access Health, a reproductive health services group that provides training for the CSU and UC systems.
“There were staff across campus who were interested and curious about what support they might be able to provide when their students are home for the summer,” she said. “Can they perform medical abortions across state lines? And those are really complicated legal questions that we can’t answer at the moment.”
Corresponding UC enrollment numbersabout 7.4% or 21,804 students were from outside of California, as was about 5% or 23,873 enrolled at CSU.
“These legal issues are still under investigation,” said Amy Moy, spokeswoman for Essential Access Health. “The environment is changing rapidly, and the primary goal is to strengthen and strengthen abortion care capacity.”
So far, around 800 people at UC and CSU sites have been trained to meet the January 2023 deadline, Sumberg said.
The training not only highlighted how to ask a student for abortion medication before and after, but also guided staff on how to care for patients and how to navigate the new law. Officials from both the UC and CSU systems said all campuses are expected to meet the Jan. 1 deadline with no issues.
Only one school, UC Berkeley — where students first demanded access to abortion drugs, prompting the law — has already started providing the pills.
“University health services began offering medical abortion services in December 2020,” a spokesman said in a statement. “We support choice of where students want these services and have a long history of providing birth control, including the morning-after pill, and referrals to nearby facilities for abortion services.”
And although abortion is legal in California, college campuses in some areas of the state will be the only places in the county where abortion drugs and counseling will be available, except through telemedicine. About 40% of the state’s counties don’t have access to abortion treatment, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
“There are areas that are abortion deserts and contraceptive deserts, and those areas often overlap where there are more health shortages, including the rural north, the Central Valley and the Inland Empire,” Moy said.
Before the law, some students had to drive more than 30 minutes away and pay $600 to $800 for a medical abortion, Leyva said. For some students, that cost of medication could mean the difference between succeeding or dropping out.
At UC campuses, the pills are covered by the student insurance plan required for students. At CSU, the health appointment during the school year is covered by student fees, but students are charged a fee of about $50 for the medication, said Carolyn O’Keefe, director of student wellness & basic needs at the CSU Chancellery. Fees may apply if an appointment is made outside of the regular school year, but the service is available to students year-round.
“You won’t be turned away,” she said.
Students For Life of America, an anti-abortion group that organizes and recruits members in high schools and colleges, is working with attorneys to challenge the law and has recruited 90 other groups to oversee cases that could end up in court, such as students.
“We doubt student health centers have the emergency infrastructure to deal with extreme bleeding and chemical abortion pill complications,” said Kristi Hamrick, chief media and policy strategist for Students For Life America. “We have spoken to attorneys in California should they be needed to address such violations or to defend the conscientious rights of students or health care workers who do not wish to participate in on-campus abortion deaths.”
Wynette Sills, director of Californians For Life, who also opposed the law, said she’s also worried about college campus health care providers being pressured into providing students with abortion drugs.
“A mandate from a legislature for your workplace to become an abortion provider appears to be very intrusive on the protection of conscience rights and the work environment for those employed on a student campus,” she said.
Lou Hartmann, 25, a senior at Cal State Northridge, said that “for many students, student health centers are the only way they can access medical care.”
The campus centers also offer medical privacy when seeking abortion treatment.
“Some students don’t have health insurance or have health insurance with their parents,” says Hartmann. “Because they are on their parents’ health insurance, they may not want to use the insurance.”
Hartmann, a communications major with a queer studies minor who uses she/them pronouns, has joined protests in support of access to abortion because they believe the fight is centered on autonomy over their own bodies. The new law protects that autonomy, they said.
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-07-25/uc-and-csu-campuses-to-provide-abortion-pills-in-california UC and CSU campuses to provide abortion pills in California