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Santa Maria Sun / School Scene

The following article was posted on September 12th, 2018, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 19, Issue 28 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 19, Issue 28

California universities may be required to offer abortion medications

By Kasey Bubnash

Each month, roughly 519 UC or CSU students seek medication abortions at off-campus clinics. And since 2000, more than 1.5 million women in the United States have terminated pregnancies through the use of abortion medication. 

That's all according to a fact sheet released by the office of state Sen. Connie Leyva (D-Chino), the author of bill that would require each of the state's public university student health centers to offer abortions via medication by Jan. 1, 2022. 

Senate Bill 320, which passed the state Senate on Aug. 30, will either be signed into law or vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown by the end of September. 

"It's probably one of the most radical pieces of reproductive legislation that has been put forward in the country," Steven Ho, an incoming junior at UC Santa Barbara, told the Sun, adding that it felt empowering to see so many lawmakers show support for the bill. "California is really paving the way for reproductive justice."

Ho, who serves as internal vice president for UC Santa Barbara's Associated Students, said that while the university's student governing body has yet to take official action on SB 320, he and a few other members are planning an informal canvassing event in support of the legislation. That typically includes providing community members around campus with the governor's contact information, Ho said, and sometimes, doughnuts. 

Although Ho originally became interested in the bill because it was inspired by a UC Berkeley student resolution, he said he continues to back its effort to ease many of the challenges his peers face when seeking abortions. 

Nearly 51 percent of all UC and CSU students are considered low-income, according to a study published by UC San Francisco in 2017. While only one-third of UC students and two-thirds of CSU students have access to reliable methods of transportation, 22 of the state's 34 campuses are at least 30 minutes away from abortion providers. And only 15 percent of the those providers are open on the weekends, according to the study. 

"This is a step toward eliminating those barriers," Ho said. 

Medication abortions are also considered to be less invasive than other methods. 

Women who are up to 10 weeks pregnant are eligible for medication abortions, according to the Aug. 30 SB 320 analysis. Patients typically take two pills, mifepristone and misoprostol, within a 72-hour period, causing the uterus to empty and bleed heavily. Although the method is almost always effective, complications and incomplete abortions can occur. 

Toni Molle, director of public affairs for the CSU's Office of the Chancellor, said that because CSU doctors don't provide inpatient care and don't have hospital admission privileges, campuses would need to establish agreements with local hospitals for students who experience complications from the medication. 

Molle also said that while student health centers do provide many reproductive health care services, campuses would need funding for the implementation of additional medical equipment, medication, and other needs associated with offering abortion medication. 

Although each student health center would be provided with a privately funded $200,000 grant to cover costs associated with the implementation of SB 320, Molle said that "one-time" funding would not address the need for ongoing staff training and maintenance. Still, Molle said CSU administrators have been working with the bill's author on many of these issues. 

Director of media relations at the UC's Office of the President, Claire Doan, said UC leaders share similar concerns about funding. 

"According to a UC analysis," Doan wrote in a statement, "even after taking into account the funds pledged by private sources, the bill would have a significant, ongoing impact on the university budget, including student fees."

Neither UC or CSU have taken official stances on the bill, and both agreed that health care in all forms should be easily accessible to students. 

While public universities would be required to offer medication abortions through the bill, participation would be optional for private and community colleges. If passed, Allan Hancock College will not be opting in, according to spokesman Phil Hamer. 

"Our health center is nurse-run, and we don't have staff that would be licensed to perform abortions and have no plans to hire practitioners that would be able to," Hamer wrote in a statement. "Doing so would take away resources from the many services we currently provide to our students." 

Staff Writer Kasey Bubnash writes School Scene each week. Information can be sent to the Sun via mail, fax, or email at

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