California Students to Have Access to Abortion Pills

A California law requires all schools within the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) systems to offer abortion pills beginning Jan 1, 2023.

Senate Bill 320, also known as College Student Right to Access Act, was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom in 2019. The bill requires all student health centers within the CSU and UC systems to stock up on drugs prescribed for medication abortion and have trained medical professionals ready to administer them.

“SB 24 reaffirms the right of every college student to access abortion,” Senator Connie Leyva (D-Chino), who introduced the bill, said in a statement at the time. “By ensuring that abortion care is available on campus, college students will not have to choose between delaying important medical care or having to travel long distances or miss classes or work.”

Medication abortion, also called the abortion pill, typically requires patients to take two different pills. The first blocks a hormone needed for pregnancy, and the second causes muscle contractions and bleeding to empty the uterus. The medication can be used up to the 10th week of pregnancy.

“Research shows that medication abortion is safe and effective and has a success rate of over 95 percent and serious adverse events occur in only 0.3 percent of instances,” according to a press release by Leyva’s office.

The law makes California the first state in the nation to provide access to abortion pills on public university campuses.

“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 said in a 2019 statement.

The law was supported by many student organizations and women’s rights groups, including the Cal State Student Association, University of California Student Association, ACLU of California, ACT for Women and Girls, and more.

The bill followed a resolution passed by the student government at UC Berkeley in 2016 urging its health center to include medication abortion in its services. The student government argued that students without reliable transportation could face both financial and academic barriers when traveling to nearby health clinics for abortion services.

Previously, a similar bill was vetoed by former governor Jerry Brown in 2018. He said the bill was “not necessary” since students could have access to medication abortion at off-campus clinics within an average distance of “five to seven miles,” according to Brown’s veto statement.

During a 2018 Senate education committee hearing, Anna Arend, the Northern California regional coordinator for Students for Life of America, expressed safety concerns about having abortion pills on campus, on behalf of students who opposed the bill.

She said that the FDA’s list of side effects of abortion by medication includes “bleeding, vomiting, headache, fever, chills, nausea, and dizziness,” and sometimes emergency surgical procedures are needed to stop the bleeding. The procedure itself can also have lingering physical and mental effects, she said.

“The trauma is unmatchable. This is not healthy for students,” she said.