Abortion Pill Veto Restricts Access to Safe Medical Services for Students

On September 30th, Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a measure that would require all public university student centers to provide abortion medication no later than January 1, 2022. In his veto message, he wrote that the “average distance to abortion providers in campus communities varies from five to seven miles, not an unreasonable distance” and that the bill is unnecessary because “the services required by this bill are widely available off-campus.”

While this claim may be somewhat true on another campuses, it is not at all true at UCI. In fact, this reasoning, along with other people’s concerns over cost and safety, restricts access to safe medical attention for students.
Governor Brown’s use of the term “widely available” is questionable at best and inaccurate at worst, as abortion clinics are far out of reach and inconvenient for students. A quick search on Google Maps reveals that the closest abortion clinics are in Costa Mesa and Santa Ana, with the closest clinic 7.2 miles from UCI. These long distances make these clinics impossible to reach without a car, and not every student has a car.

Even those who can afford Uber rides or have their own cars find themselves losing time that could be spent studying or participating in school activities. Not only would they have to endure the 7.2-mile drive to Costa Mesa, but they would also have to spend hours sitting and waiting for appointments. Across 32 reviews of the Planned Parenthood clinic in Costa Mesa, which has an average of 3.1 stars (with an equal number of 5-star and 1-star ratings), almost all the reviews lament the hours of waiting time clients had to endure, with some even reporting three-hour waits. These hours of wasted time, plus the costs of gas and/or ride service fees, can very quickly overwhelm students who are already weighed down by their unwanted pregnancies.

Some people will also argue that the abortion pill is unnecessary because student centers already have free resources for preventing unwanted pregnancies. The UCI Center for Student Wellness and Health Promotion currently offers free male and female condoms and lubricants, as well as sexual health workshops and confidential consultations. However, none of these can definitively prevent pregnancies, especially in unexpected cases like sexual assault and contraceptive failures, and just because all these options are there doesn’t mean students will actively seek them.

This is especially true for freshmen, who are not only extremely vulnerable to the high-energy societies of college, including fraternities, sororities, and other incredibly involved organizations, but are also coming from poor high school sex education that has taught them abstinence only. Without proper education and experience, freshmen (and other college students ages 18-24 who are just as uneducated) have the highest rates of unintended pregnancies than any other age group according to the Guttmacher Institute, which can lead to psychological damage and familial and societal ostracization. The pill can potentially alleviate some of these psychological burdens so that students can still function physically and mentally.

Other concerns raised over abortion pills concern costs of implementation and safety. While both UC and CSU didn’t take sides, they expressed worries over the costs of the medication itself and the training. However, private funding from groups including the Women’s Foundation of California and Tara Health Foundation would cover the costs of staff training and after-hours services at both campuses.
They had pledged grants of $200,000 to the public university systems and another $200,000 to each of their campuses. As for safety, despite numerous misconceptions and myths about the “horrors” of abortion pills, they are actually extremely safe and easy to use. According to Planned Parenthood, they have a 98% success rate for people in the first eight weeks of pregnancy and act similarly to miscarriages, which makes abortions feel more “natural.” This safety measure therefore makes it easier for students to end their pregnancies without the chore of going to a clinic and waiting hours for a treatment that might not even work for them.

Governor Brown’s veto of the abortion pill is unfair towards women who can’t afford to lose education time, have poor sexual education, and have numerous barriers that prevent them from having any control over their own bodies. If California’s public school systems want to continue to thrive and provide students with the best care possible, they need to be able to provide their students with safe havens in which they can have control over their own bodies.

Ashley Zhou is a second-year software engineering major. She can be reached at adzhou@uci.edu.