California Senate Passes Bill For Free Abortion Pills At Public Colleges

As several states roll back abortion access, California lawmakers are pushing ahead with expansions.

As a wave of abortion restrictions sweep through several states, California’s Senate passed a bill to ensure students at its public colleges and universities have access to abortion pills at campus health clinics.

Lawmakers approved the College Student Right to Access Act on Monday, sending it to the state Assembly which will then decide whether it moves to Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk for his signature.

The bill, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Connie M. Leyva, would allow students to obtain free medication abortion within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. According to Planned Parenthood, the nonsurgical process involves two pills that stop a fetus from growing, having effect comparable to an early miscarriage.

If it becomes law, the legislation would apply to campuses of both California State University and the University of California. 

In 2018, a similar bill made it all the way to then-Gov. Jerry Brown’s (D) desk, who vetoed it. However, then-Lt. Gov. Newsom said at the time that he would have signed it.

The Women’s Foundation of California, which is one of several women’s advocacy groups jointly sponsoring the bill, states that the measure would create a fund managed by the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls that would give grants to school health clinics. The funds would go toward “training and equipment to prepare them to provide abortion by medication techniques.”

The foundation estimates the cost to be between $14 million and $20 million.

In a statement released Monday, Leyva pointed to newly passed abortion bans as a sign that the time for action is now.

“Recent efforts across our country make it absolutely clear that women’s rights, particularly access to abortion, are under attack,” she said. “While other states are taking a giant step back to the days of outright misogyny and forced pregnancy, California continues to lead the nation by reaffirming the constitutional right to access abortion care without delay, including at student health centers on public university campuses.”

Last week, Republican Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed her state’s near-total abortion ban into law, which makes no exceptions for cases of incest or rape. If the legislation takes effect, the only scenario in which a woman could have a legal abortion would be if her life was in jeopardy.

That same week, Missouri House lawmakers passed an eight-week abortion ban, and it is now expected to be signed by Republican Gov. Mike Parson.

In total, eight states have passed bills rolling back access to abortion, several of which ban the procedure once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can occur at six weeks.

Every single Democratic presidential candidate has spoken out in support of abortion access, many of them strongly condemning measures like Alabama’s as unconstitutional. 

On Tuesday, protesters ― including some of the 2020 hopefuls ― rallied in a series of #StopTheBans demonstrations around the country.