SB 24: The College Student Right to Access Act - Women's Foundation California

Marj Plumb, SB 24 campaign director and Solís Policy Institute mentor, received this text from a colleague this fall: 

“Hi Marj! FYI I am at the Cal Poly orientation for my kid and they just announced to all the parents that they will provide medication abortion in the student health center this year.” 

All public California universities are required to provide medication abortion by the end of the year thanks to SB 24 and the tireless reproductive justice advocates who brought this campaign across the finish line. 

SB 24, passed in 2019, ensures that students who attend public universities in California have access to medication abortion pills. The law requires these university health centers to provide the medication to their students. The passing of this bill was monumental for California university students and reproductive justice policy. Research by ANSIRH (Advancing New Standards In Reproductive Health) proved to the legislature that students had access barriers with the finding that 65% of California universities are over 2 hours round-trip by public transportation. 

SB 24 was not the first attempt to pass this legislation. Its predecessor SB 320 failed to get out of committee as there were questions about whether there were real access challenges for students, whether student health centers were capable of providing medication abortion, and how it would be funded. Thanks to the work done by Women’s Foundation California and our Solís Policy Institute fellows alongside many other organizations and the research done by ANSIRH, the committee’s questions were answered. With the pressure on and the research in hand, SB 24 was introduced, passed, and signed in one year. 

Plumb, who offered their insight into the team’s experience with the bill, noted student stories as the inspiration for pursuing the bill. Before SB 24’s inception, students from UC Berkeley attempted to tackle this issue on their own campus. Unfortunately, their administration denied the idea even with overwhelming support from students and faculty members. Student stories regarding the difficulties of unexpected and unwanted pregnancies revealed the necessity for SB 24. 

When asked about the most surprising part of the campaign, Marj presented the association between violence and abortion stating that those they spoke with were “convinced that MedAB (medical abortion) at SHCs (student health centers) would mean the SHCs would be bombed or shot at.” Marj explained the most difficult part was resolving the myths surrounding the costs of medical abortion. The minimal research done by student health clinics led to the belief that their costs would be way higher than the actual. Relaying proper and accurate information was vital to get universities and their health clinics on board. 

As of now, all public universities in California either provide medication abortion or are on target to do so. Marj also mentioned that Massachusetts just passed a similar bill (something I was happy to hear about as someone who attends college in Massachusetts). This Massachusetts bill requires all public universities to submit a plan of action for providing medication abortion by November 2023 (Source). 

SB 24 could be a potentially life-changing bill for so many college students. There is a timeline for abortion and creating easier access for students by having medication abortion on campus removes travel time and costs while shortening appointment wait times. Not only does SB 24 increase access, but it has also acted as a trailblazer with Massachusetts following its lead. We can only hope that other states continue to follow.. 


A Note from Eliana Arroyo: 

I want to thank everyone who helped me during my internship at Women’s Foundation California. Thank you to Mazuri and the rest of the Development and Partnerships team for welcoming me with open arms and supporting me throughout the entire process. Thank you to the entire WFC staff for your amazing energy and positivity. I appreciate all of you and everything that you do. Women’s Foundation California is such a special environment, and I did not take my time here for granted. Finally, I want to send a huge thank you to Karen Shain, Lisa Marie Alatorre, and Marj Plumb for agreeing to speak with me and bringing my pieces to life.

I was greatly inspired by the work being done at WFC; so much so that I decided to try and find work at another nonprofit with a similar mission. I am extremely happy to announce that I will continue my nonprofit experience this fall with an internship at Civic Nation’s United State of Women initiative! This would not have been possible without my experience at Women’s Foundation California.

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