All public university students should have access to health care. This bill will help

By Jessy Rosales, Special to CalMatters

Editor’s note: This commentary is a response to the CalMatters commentary, “Why Gov. Newsom should veto SB 24, the chemical abortion bill,” Sept. 18, 2019.

Senate Bill 24, which passed the California Legislature last week, would make medication abortion—also known as the abortion pill—available at on-campus student health centers at all public universities in California. 

If Gov. Gavin Newsom signs the bill into law, California will be a leader in improving access to abortion care for college students. I hope he does sign this groundbreaking legislation by Sen. Connie Leyva, Chino Democrat. It will ensure students access to abortion care on campus.

The hundreds of students at public universities in California who seek abortions every month should be able to access this care at the on-campus student health centers they already depend on for a range of healthcare services.  

Forcing students to travel off campus, and arrange and pay for transportation imposes unnecessary burdens and can delay their care. Leaving campus for abortion care also means students must see a provider they don’t know and take time away from classes, work, or both. 

These barriers disproportionately harm students of color, low-income students, and first-generation college students.

I was one of those students. In my third year at UC Riverside, I discovered I was pregnant. As my doctor at my student health center went over my options, I knew that I wanted to get an abortion.

Because I couldn’t get my abortion at my student health center, I was forced to navigate cumbersome, confusing referrals to offsite clinics that ultimately delayed my care for three months, during which, it became increasingly more difficult to live my life. The stress caused by the delay resulted in my failing of that quarter.

As a student, I had gone to my on-campus health center for other reproductive health care—birth control, STI testing, and breast exams. There is no reason why abortion care should be excluded. Once a student has decided to end a pregnancy, they shouldn’t be forced to go off campus to see a provider they don’t know.

Anti-abortion opponents have argued that California taxpayers would assume the cost of care if SB 24 becomes law. This simply isn’t true. 

The question of public insurance coverage for abortion has long been settled in our state. California proudly covers abortion care through its Medi-Cal health insurance program for low-income Californians, and the UC student health insurance program already covers abortion.

 Anti-abortion opponents have also said that any additional costs would fall on university students, but there is simply no evidence that that will happen. With the private funding committed in the bill, there would be no cost for student health centers to become ready to provide this care on campus.

Students and people around the state support Senate Bill 24, also known as the College Student Right to Know Act. As a candidate last year, Gavin Newsom expressed his support for students’ access to abortion care on campus. Now, he can put his words into action.

Every student should be able to make the decisions we believe are best for our health, our circumstances, and our future. SB 24 would ensure the full range of reproductive and sexual health services are available to all California students, no matter where they live, go to school, or how much money they make.

Jessy Rosales is a UC Riverside graduate and a justCARE campaign campus coordinator at the Women’s Foundation of California, [email protected]. She wrote this commentary for CalMatters.

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