Despite the efforts of pro-life advocates, California legislators approved a bill last week that will require state-run university health centers to give students abortion-inducing drugs.
The state Assembly passed Senate Bill 320 on Thursday with a vote of 52-25, and the Senate once again approved the bill with amendments 26-13 on Friday. The bill now heads for Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk for his signature.
The measure claims that state government “has an interest in ensuring that every pregnant person in California who wants to have an abortion can obtain access to that care as easily and as early in pregnancy as possible,” and mandates that by Jan. 1, 2022, every University of California and California State University student health center must provide abortion-inducing drugs.
It also will require student health centers to provide 24-hour phone support to women undergoing chemical abortions and “deliver telehealth services.” The bill establishes a fund that will disburse $200,000 to each university to reorganize its health center into one that dispenses abortion drugs.
John Gerardi, director of Right to Life of Central California, told me the bill represents the “next frontier of abortion”: chemical abortions by telemedicine. It’s not clear how the bill would set up abortion by telemedicine, but mail-order abortions are already legal in Maine, Hawaii, Washington, and Oregon. Gerardi sees the method as a “the new looming threat from the pro-choice movement.”
“We need to be doing more to reach out to these girls to let them know there are resources out there to choose life,” he said. “If this becomes the norm … you can have all the sidewalk counselors you want, but these girls are getting their abortions by chatting online with a nurse and getting stuff mailed to them.”
Abortion drugs include mifepristone, or RU-486, which blocks the pregnancy-sustaining hormone progesterone, killing the baby, and misoprostol, which sends the woman into labor.
While abortion advocates claim the drugs are extremely safe, hundreds of women every year experience serious complications, leading to hospitalization and blood transfusions. The Food and Drug Administration reports 22 deaths of adults associated with the drugs since it approved the combination in 2000. One high-profile death occurred in 2003, when 18-year-old California resident Holly Patterson died after attempting a chemical abortion. Her death shocked her family, who didn’t even know she was pregnant.
Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, told me her organization has been lobbying against the bill at the state Capitol in Sacramento and talking with California university students.
“We’ve toured more than 50 campuses with a toilet seat display, showing students this is where they’ll have their abortions: in a lonely bathroom stall in a shared bathroom on the floor of their dormitory,” she said. “It’s amazing when students find out, and they hear the truth about RU-486 and they hear how dangerous it is for women, and just the callousness of the abortion itself.”
The impetus for the bill, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Connie Leyva, came from the University of California, Berkeley, pro-abortion group Students United for Reproductive Justice. The group’s co-founder, Adiba Khan, told Mother Jones that the idea for the measure occurred when two students she knew took time off from work and school to abort their babies.
“The movement to get medication abortion on campus began when students recognized our need for it,” Khan said in a statement.
But Hawkins pointed out that students—along with their babies—will be paying the price for on-campus abortions: “I think, sadly, what we’ll see is probably a lawsuit once a young girl dies from this.”
Some school officials previously voiced concerns that the bill will cause financial woes and burden health centers designed for “basic health services.” Citing the fiscal issues the bill raises, Gerardi told me he estimates a 20 percent chance of Gov. Brown vetoing it.
“He’s vetoed bad things before,” Gerardi said. “So say a prayer. Hopefully Brown does the right thing.”