State Legislators Introduce Bill Requiring UC Health Centers to Provide Abortion Medication


Arturo Samaniego
National Beat Reporter

Abortion medication may soon be coming to University of California and California State University health centers under a California senate bill revised on Jan. 11.

Senate Bill 320, if passed, would require California public university student health centers, on and after Jan. 1, 2022, to offer abortion medication to students “only to the extent that private moneys are made available for funding.”

So far, the bill has passed the state’s Senate Education Committee and must now undergo a second and third reading on the Senate floor before it can receive a roll call vote and proceed to the Assembly.

The bill, authored by Sen. Connie Leyva (D-Chino) emphasizes the importance of making abortion easily accessible.

In comments to The Bottom Line, representatives from Planned Parenthood Generation Action at UC Santa Barbara and Julie Mickelberry, Vice President of Community Engagement for Planned Parenthood California Central Coast, echoed the necessity of making abortion accessible to college students, both stating that “access to safe abortion care is an essential part of basic reproductive healthcare” and that it is a “constitutional right.”

Another point the bill outlines in its argument for the necessity of abortion medication at student health centers is that over 400,000 students attending CA public universities identify as female, and that it is the mission of student health centers to “minimize the negative impact of health concerns on students’ studies.”

Similarly, both Planned Parenthood Generation Action at UCSB and Mickelberry asserted that “students deserve access to health services that will allow them to plan their families and achieve their work and post-graduate goals.”

Under the bill, a medication abortion implementation fund will be created to finance the cost of providing abortion medication to students.

The fund will be supported by “private moneys” and will not require support from general fund appropriations or student fees.

Another reason stated in the bill for implementing abortion medication into student health centers is that in some cases, students seeking early pregnancy termination must travel long distances that can be time consuming and stressful for individuals.

For UCSB students, the nearest Planned Parenthood health center can be found 10.7 miles in downtown Santa Barbara.

The Bill has stirred up opposition from pro-life groups. In a statement to The Sacramento BeeWynette Sills of Californians for Life claimed that abortion access was not an issue for college students.

Sills also claimed that Californian university systems are poorly equipped to deal with providing abortion medication to students and that student health centers are “basically first aid centers with oftentimes just the basic medical infrastructure.”

The bill’s text highlights that health professionals at student health centers are licensed to provide abortion medication.

Dating back to Roe vs. Wade (1973), there has long been a push by pro-choice groups and a variety of individuals to make abortion more easily accessible to women. In 1980, Cora McRae and other pregnant women sought to overturn the Hyde Amendment, which limited the use of federal funds to reimburse the cost of abortion under the Medicaid program. The amendment was upheld in a divided ruling.

In 1992, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, plaintiffs sought to overturn a Pennsylvania law that included waiting periods for abortions and required parental consent from minors seeking an abortion.

In the past several years, there have been renewed efforts to increase access to abortion, as evident in the Each Woman Act introduced into Congress back in 2015. The act seeks to overturn the Hyde Amendment.

It is unknown what challenges the bill would face in court if it were to pass, but as of now an obstacle that may keep the bill from becoming state law is the 27 votes in the Senate and the 54 votes in the Assembly it needs for passage, whereas other bills that do not require an appropriation (the authorization of funding) only need 21 votes in the Senate and 41 votes in the Assembly for passage.