The California state legislature will vote on a bill in the next few weeks that would require public university student health centers to provide medication abortions at all 34 state campuses.
Currently, state health centers do not preform abortions. But if SB 24 passes, it would be the first legislation of its kind in the nation.
Jessy Rosales, a recent graduate of the University of California at Riverside, is advocating for the bill. She is a reproductive justice activist with the Women’s Foundation of California. Rosales has a personal stake in the issue.
When Rosales was a sophomore at the university, she suddenly became sick. Rosales found out she was pregnant, even though she was taking birth control pills.
“I thought it was the stomach flu,” said Rosales to NPR. “It turns out I was pregnant.”
Rosales was not ready to have a baby. She sought out a medication abortion. During the medication abortion, Rosales would take one pill at the clinic and a second pill at home later to induce a miscarraige.
“I just wanted the intimacy of dealing with it on my own, in the privacy of my own home,” said Rosales in her interview with NPR. “And being able to cry if I wanted to cry or just being able to curl up in my bed right away.”
Since public universities do not preform abortions, Rosales was reffered to three off-campus providers for abortions. The first clinic didn’t preform abortions and the second didn’t take her insurance. By the time Rosales secured an appointment at the last clinic, she was too far along in her pregnancy for a medication abortion and required a surgical procedure.
“The doctor kept telling me to relax … and I couldn’t because it just hurt so bad,” said Rosales. “I was just afraid and alone.”
Rosales says she wants other students to have easier access to the abortion pill than she did.
Many women’s groups supportive of abortion rights have promised to pay for the upfront training costs and required ultrasound equipment. Eventually, however, universities would have to use tax dollars or student fees to cover the costs.
Opponents of the bill have organized protests objecting to the plan. A group gathered at a church in Sacramento chanted, “Don’t kill babies! Don’t kill babies!” after being led in prayer.
“Not on my dime, not on my dime,” said Michele LaMonica, an abortion opponent, as quoted in NPR. “Tax me to help the homeless. Tax me to help social services, but don’t tax me to pay for the disposal of human life.”
Tax dollars already go towards abortions provided through Medi-Cal, California’s version of Medicaid for low-income residents. Under California statute, insurance companies are required to cover abortion procedures.
Last year, former Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a version of the same bill, arguing that the legislation was unnecessary.
When Brown vetoed the bill, gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom claimed he would have supported it. Newsome won in the election, and the bill’s supporters are hopeful that he would sign the legislation should it pass the state legislature.