Editor’s Note: While UC Berkeley supports and refers abortion services to students on campus, in spring 2017, the California Senate Committee on Health passed the “College Student Right to Access Act,” or SB 320introduced by State Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, which aims to require all California public university systems to provide medical pill abortions in student health centers. The Women’s Foundation of California and ACCESS Women’s Health Justice were inspired to sponsor this piece of legislation after earlier legislative efforts proposed by Students United for Reproductive Justice at UC Berkeley, or SURJ. Adiba Khan, co-founder of SURJ and a UC Berkeley public health and sociology major, spearheaded that movement on campus earlier that year.
College campuses are basically self-contained communities. Students work, go to class, eat, sleep, shop for groceries, do laundry, garden and work out (or not!) all within the bounds of the university or college. When you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. There are even campus health centers that students know, trust and rely on for a whole range of services—basically anything short of an emergency room.
Unfortunately, these campus health centers don’t provide abortion care — but they could and should.
The good news is California students and allies are leading a new effort to make abortion care, specifically, theabortion pill, available at public college campus health centers. Here are six reasons why they should succeed.
1. The abortion pill is safe and effective.
Fifteen years of evidence show that the abortion pill is a safe and effective method to end a pregnancy. In fact, research shows that abortion with pills has a success rate of more than 95 percent. Some people even prefer this method, which can be used earlier in pregnancy and allows a person to end their pregnancy in the privacy of their home.
2. Campus health centers already offer comparable care.
Campus health centers currently provide pregnancy tests, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, or STIs, and other reproductive care. And the abortion pill is much simpler to provide than some of the other care already offered at college health centers.
3. Going off campus means missing class, work, or both.
Many students, particularly those who are working to make ends meet, have packed schedules with classes, work and participation in community activities. It can be hard to find a time to leave campus for medical appointments, especially when there may not be a clinic nearby. It’s hard enough to experience an unplanned pregnancy — why make things more difficult by forcing students to make up classwork or lose wages from missing shifts?
Additionally, most students in Berkeley don’t have cars on campus. This means that they have to rely on public transportation in order to get abortion care off campus. Some schools are close to urban areas with decent mass transit, but others are more isolated, so bus service can be unreliable or infrequent. For some students, this means a six-hour round trip.
4. Students shouldn’t be forced to go off campus to see a provider.
Campus health centers are already well-equipped to safely provide medical abortion. Many on-campus student health centers already offer students other reproductive health services, including pregnancy options counseling, contraception and testing for STIs. Students shouldn’t be forced to visit a provider they’ve never met when they could just go to a trusted provider on campus.
5. Improving access to reproductive care helps close the equity gap.
Students, including those who are already parents, face many barriers to accessing the full range of sexual and reproductive health services, and these barriers disproportionately harm students of color, low-income students and first-generation college students. Offering abortion care on campus helps ensure these services are available to all students who might need them, wherever they live or go to school and however much money they make.
6. It’s an important first step.
Students live on campus, it’s their community. They should be able to get the health care they need without leaving it. Offering medication abortion on campus is an important step forward for student access to reproductive care. I hope this and more can be achieved so that someday the full range of pregnancy-related care — including in-clinic abortion and prenatal care — is accessible for students on every campus in California.
Dey Nava, an author and member of the Women’s Foundation of California’s Women’s Policy Institute team, is a resident of Sacramento.