California has become the first state to require public universities to provide abortion pills to students, starting Jan. 1, 2023.
Signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom on October 11, Senate Bill 24 requires the 34 University of California and California State University campuses to make abortion pills available for free during the first ten weeks of pregnancy. The law will be funded by $10 million in private donations rather than taxpayer dollars, according to the Associated Press.
In a statement, Newsom said, “As other states and the federal government go backward, restricting reproductive freedom, in California we are moving forward, expanding access and reaffirming a woman’s right to choose.”
Newsom’s predecessor, Gov. Jerry Brown, declined to sign similar legislation, saying that students seeking abortions had ready access to clinics within a few miles of campus. Newsom said that women should not have to leave campus or miss class to obtain the pills.
The author of the bill, State Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino), said in a statement, “After three years of working to expand access to medication abortion at our public universities, I am thrilled that Governor Newsom rejected the misguided paths that other states have taken in limiting access to abortion care.”
The bill was sponsored by organizations such as the Women’s Policy Institute, ACCESS Women’s Health Justice, ACT for Women and Girls, and California Latinas for Reproductive Justice.
In medication abortions, students are given two pills, one to end the pregnancy and one to empty the uterus up to 48 hours later. A 2018 study found that 322 to 519 California public university students request access to medication abortions monthly.
Leyva contends that the medication “is safe and effective,” with a success rate of more than 95 percent and a serious adverse event rate of 0.3 percent. Most people who take the pills can go back to normal activities in a day or two and can confirm the pregnancy termination a week or two later, she added.
However, not everyone is convinced of the safety of the pills or the concept of making abortion pills readily available on campus. Kristan Hawkins, the president of Students for Life of America (SFLA), told Fox & Friends, “This is a first-in-the-nation law that is going to fundamentally alter what is happening at college campus health centers. Every state college campus in California will now be turned into an abortion facility.”
Hawkins is concerned that student health centers might not have the personnel or the equipment to detect problems or to advise students about both medical and psychological issues.
In an article for The Federalist, she wrote, “California contemplates becoming the bellwether state in experimenting with young lives. This is not merely a California initiative. Students travel from all over the world to be educated in the state’s finest institutions, and the bill’s sponsor describes this as ‘a model across the country, for every state.’”
Kristi Hamrick, a spokesperson for Students for Life of America (SFLA), told The Epoch Times, “By pushing abortion pills at school, California is ignoring the risks to women’s lives, ignoring the fact that health centers don’t have emergency surgery or EMS capacity if a woman is bleeding out or facing infection from an incomplete abortion and ignoring the fact that less than 6 miles from every campus there is already an abortion vendor.”
“The state is exposing taxpayers and universities to extreme liability, because there will be lawsuits. This WILL violate the conscience rights of students – whose student fees fund the health centers, and this WILL violate the conscience rights of health care workers who will be forced to hand out these life-ending pills,” she added.
SFLA intends to offer legal aid to campus health care workers who do not want to participate in abortion services and assistance to students who want to fight similar laws in other states. In Hamrick’s words, “Conscience rights matter, and the Supreme Court respects them.”