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Campaign Launches to Increase Abortion Care at California Universities

A coalition of students, advocates and politicians announced the launch of justCARE: Campus Action for Reproductive Equality last week in a press conference on Wednesday, Jan. 9. The group is working to increase adequate abortion care and bring the abortion pill to all California campus health centers by passing the College Student Right to Access Act (SB 320).

Currently, no California campus health centers provide abortion care and students often have to travel many miles to receive necessary medical care. UC Berkeley senior Adiba Khan, who came to California from Oklahoma, expressed her disappointment at learning that the generally more progressive California did not provide abortion services on college campuses.

“To someone living outside our state, it may seem as though Californians don’t face barriers to accessing abortion, but reality tells us otherwise. These barriers disproportionately harm students of color, low-income students and first-generation college students. Once a student has decided to end a pregnancy, theres is no reason they shouldn’t be able to get the abortion pill right on campus.”

Khan, who is also the Director of Students United for Reproductive Justice at UC Berkeley, noted that students should not have to worry about access to medical care.

“As students, we are balancing classes, work, community and family while trying to build our future. We shouldn’t be forced to leave campus, travel for hours or see a provider we don’t know to get health care that could be available on campus.”

Ushma Upadhyay, professor and Deputy Director of the UC Global Health Institute Center of Expertise on Women’s Health, Gender and Empowerment at UCSF, stated that up to 519 UC and CSU students seek medication abortion off-campus every month. Some off-campus clinics are only 30 minute away but some are more than two hours away. Medication abortions can only be done in the first ten weeks and young pregnant women are not likely to reveal their pregnancy until the sixth week, leaving a small window of time for patients to receive effective care.

Daniel Grossman, professor and Director of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health at UC San Francisco, presented findings from a study that examined medical services at all UC campuses and 20 out of 23 CSU campuses. Grossman said that while the campus medical centers would require installation of ultrasound machines and staff training for abortion care, all the student health centers had the capacity to provide adequate abortion care.

Another issue for students seeking abortion care is the cost. Dr. Ruth Shaber, President of the Tara Health Foundation, announced that a group of private funders, including the Tara Health Foundation, the Women’s Foundation of California and an anonymous donor, will work together to cover the cost of implementing better abortion care on California campuses.

“Like many across the state,” said Shaber, “we recognize the importance of keeping abortion legal, affordable and available and we are proud to bring resources to this ground-breaking effort. We support improved access to abortion for students at every public university campus in California and we are committed to provide the necessary funding to help them begin to provide medication abortion on California’s public university campuses if the College Student Right to Access Act becomes law.”