It’s time for universities to support abortion care on campus

by Talia Kieu, Contributor

Throughout my three years at San Diego State, I have been deeply committed to educating my peers on sexual health and reproductive freedom. I have spent hours distributing condoms and other safe sex supplies at different spots on campus, organizing popular sexual health education events and talking to my fellow students about birth control methods. 

Sexual health education is critical, but education and the right to get an abortion is meaningless if unnecessary barriers and obstacles keep students from obtaining the care they need. In my last year at SDSU, I am committed to doing all I can to ensure that my peers, myself and the students who will come after us get the full range of reproductive health care we need on campus. And that includes abortion care.

California students who attend public universities, including those of us here at SDSU, face significant financial and physical barriers to abortion care. Not one of the 34 public universities in the state offers medication abortion, also known as the abortion pill, on their campuses.

For the past several years, college students across California have been trying to change that. What started as a student-led movement at UC Berkeley in 2015 is now groundbreaking legislation that could soon become state law. But we need the support of our schools and state lawmakers to achieve that goal.

The measure is known as the College Student Right to Access Act and was filed this year as Senate Bill 24. It would allow for medication abortion to be available on all public university campuses in California. This bill is essential. Although campus student health centers, including the Calpulli Center, provide a range of reproductive health services — from STD testing to birth control — students who make the personal decision to end a pregnancy are forced to leave campus for abortion care. According to recent research, every month, more than 500 students at California state universities seek medication abortion care at off-campus facilities – often at great costs.

 The closest abortion clinic to our campus is about a mile away, and while that may seem close enough, not everyone has the ability to go to an off-campus provider. That one mile might be a much larger barrier for disabled students, low-income students and students who don’t have the means to travel even one mile, including SDSU’s over 3,800 freshmen who live on campus and are no longer allowed to have cars.

On top of these barriers, the stigma surrounding reproductive health care can make students feel ashamed to seek resources. Providing accessible medication abortions to students will normalize abortion care by making it as easily available as the other reproductive health services provided at Calpulli. 

Limiting access to reproductive health care based on a person’s income or zip code is dangerous. Offering abortion care on campus helps ensure these services are available to all students who might need them, wherever we live, go to school or however much money they make.

For the past several years through the justCARE campaign, students have made their voices heard – they’ve spoken out at the Capitol, attended University Board of Regents meetings, mobilized campuses and worked with legislators to support SB 24. It’s time for Governor Gavin Newsom to trust us and sign the bill.

Support for medication abortion on campus is widespread among Californians. A recent survey found that 60% of California voters are overwhelmingly in favor of ensuring all women access to abortion, including large majorities of people who believe that universities should provide the medication abortion on campus.

At a time when extreme abortion bans have passed in states across the country, dangerously limiting reproductive access to people who need it the most, California has the opportunity to be a leader once again and strengthen access to abortion care. 

We need Governor Newsom to uphold his commitment to student abortion access and reproductive freedom and sign SB 24 today.

Talia Kieu is a senior studying public health and is involved with Planned Parenthood Generation Action on campus. Follow her on Twitter @taliakieu.