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SACRAMENTO – Today, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 24 (Leyva), groundbreaking legislation that will require student health centers at all 34 California public universities to offer medication abortion. The bill, also known as the College Student Right to Access Act, is the first of its kind in the nation, and has widespread support across the state. At the signing ceremony, Governor Newsom also signed AB 1264, which expands access to contraception, and SB 464, which aims to curb maternal mortality among Black women.
“For four years, students have been fighting for a future where reproductive health services, including abortion, are available to all students who need them,” said Adiba Khan, Co-Founder of Berkeley Students United for Reproductive Justice. “We are grateful to see the College Student Right to Access Act signed into law so students who are struggling to make ends meet will not be forced to choose between their academic and financial well-being and accessing an abortion."
Medication abortion is a safe and effective way to end a pregnancy up to 10 weeks. The abortion pill is much simpler to provide than some of the care already offered at student health centers, and many on-campus health centers also offer other reproductive health services including pregnancy options counseling, birth control, and sexually transmitted infections (STI) testing. Universities will have until 2023 to implement this new service.
A consortium of funders, including the Women’s Foundation of California and Tara Health Foundation, has already raised the funds to cover the costs to bring medication abortion to public university student health centers in California.
“With Governor Newsom’s signature today, California is showing the nation that providing medication abortion on campus is the right thing to do,” said Ruth Shaber, M.D., founder and president of the Tara Health Foundation. “The bill is a testament to California's commitment and the belief that once a student has decided to end a pregnancy, they should be able to get the care they need without unnecessary barriers or delay.”
“I am thrilled that Governor Newsom rejected the misguided paths that other states have taken in limiting access to abortion care. Abortion is a protected right, and it is important that everyone—including college students—have access to that right, if they so choose,” said Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino), author of SB 24. “I thank the Governor and my legislative colleagues for upholding the right to choose and affirming the right of college students to access medication abortion on campuses here in California. I am also grateful for the many students and advocates that stood alongside me. Without them, today would not have been a reality.”
Students often struggle to access abortion: many do not have cars or the resources to pay for public transportation. Almost half of the public university campuses in California are located five miles or more from an abortion provider, and some students must travel upwards of four hours to get care.
"With constant attacks on abortion rights across the country, SB 24 ensures college students in California have access to the full range of healthcare services. This policy reduces unnecessary barriers to abortion care and we are proud to have worked with such a fierce group of champions to make this a reality,” said Tiffany Pryor, Interim Executive Director of ACCESS Women's Health Justice.
“At a time when abortion rights throughout the country are under attack, California is fighting back,” said Phyllida Burlingame, Reproductive Justice and Gender Equity Director of the ACLU of California. “SB 24 ensures that public university students can exercise their constitutional right to abortion and access care on their campuses – no matter how much money they have, what they look like, or where they live.”
“This is what real reproductive health care access looks like. This shows what happens when young people fight for change they need and believe in,” said Sarah Hutchinson, Policy Director at ACT for Women and Girls.
“Students should be able to make the decisions they believe are best for themselves, including the decision to become a parent or end a pregnancy,” said Laura Jiménez, Executive Director of California Latinas for Reproductive Justice. “Today, Governor Newsom stood with students of color, low-income students, and first-generation students who disproportionately face barriers to accessing the healthcare they need.”
"Today, California has taken a significant step to expand reproductive freedom and guarantee that the right to abortion care is accessible to hundreds of thousands of California’s public university students,” said NARAL Pro-Choice California Director Shannon Hovis. “Governor Newsom’s signature of SB 24 makes good on his commitment as governor of the most populous state in the nation to stand with the 7 in 10 Americans who support the right to legal abortion and lead the country through this dark period characterized by politicians who seek to restrict women’s freedoms for their own political agendas.”
“This bill will have tangible benefits for students, particularly those who struggle the most to access the reproductive healthcare they need,” said Rocío González, Fellow at Women’s Foundation of California, Women’s Policy Institute. “Supporting their personal and academic success is good for them and good for California as a whole.”
“This is a victory for the students and allies who put in a tremendous effort to ensure that university students have the respect, recognition, and resources they need to thrive,” said Surina Khan, CEO of The Women’s Foundation of California.
justCARE: Campus Action for Reproductive Equity mobilizes students and allies across California to make the abortion pill on campus a reality. We envision a future where reproductive health services are available to all students who need them, wherever we live or go to school.