These past weeks, our nation has been transfixed by our most recent Supreme Court nomination. We are watching whether the Senate will confirm a man who has been accused of sexual assault and who likely would vote to significantly restrict — or even overturn— our federal right to legal abortion. Whether he is appointed or not, it is likely that any court nominee will support significant restrictions to abortion law. After all, President Donald Trump promised as much and seems intent on following through.
It is against this backdrop that students and our allies across the state of California are urging our own governor to take action.
Gov. Jerry Brown has the opportunity to implement a historic expansion of abortion access for California students by signing SB 320 into law and bringing medication abortion to student health centers at California public universities.
Currently, students face significant and unnecessary barriers to medication abortion. No public university currently offers this safe, simple, and effective procedure in its student health center. Under this system, students have had to miss class and work, wait weeks for their referral appointment, and pull together hundreds of dollars. Instead of getting care in a place that is accessible, comfortable, and affordable, students have to travel to an unfamiliar clinic and navigate any number of other bureaucratic and logistical hurdles in the process of referral to a new provider. Barriers like this disproportionately impact low-income students and students of color in a way that should be unacceptable in California. This law would provide resources that will have a tangible impact on students’ experiences.
Every student should have access to abortion regardless of their income or where they go to school. Rather than merely defining ourselves against draconian restrictions in other states, California has a responsibility to define our commitment to reproductive rights by executing a significant expansion of abortion access.
The fight for abortion access on campus has always been driven by students. Started by Adiba Khan, co-founder of Students United for Reproductive Justice at UC-Berkeley, the effort was led by students before being taken up for statewide legislation by multiple organizations and Sen. Connie Leyva, and has now passed both the Senate and the Assembly. Students from across the state have been consistently organizing in support of SB 320 since the bill’s inception. The legislature trusts students to make choices for ourselves.
In a time where Roe v. Wade is in clear and imminent danger, young people in California are insisting on progressive change. Earlier this month, students delivered more than fifteen thousand petition signatures urging the governor to sign SB 320. Seven in ten women and nearly two thirds (64%) of all Californians support students who choose to terminate their pregnancies being able to get their medication on campus.
California is a leader and exemplar on a national and even global scale – and has intensified its progressive policy influence on the environment, immigration, and other key issues. With legal abortion hanging by a thread, it’s time to show that same leadership on abortion rights. The scope and statewide popularity of SB 320 is an opportunity to take the barriers to abortion for young people seriously and to set a national precedent.
In his 2018 State of the State address, Gov. Brown said, “With respect to higher education, it is clear just how much of our prosperity depends on the intellectual contributions of our institutions of higher learning.” Access to reproductive healthcare is critical for our ability to make those intellectual contributions.
Gov. Brown signed my mom’s diploma, and hundreds of thousands since then. His tenure will be over a few months before I graduate UC Berkeley, but his signature on this legislation can still impact the lives of the hundreds of thousands of students in my class and beyond.
Phoebe Abramowitz is a UC Berkeley senior organizing with Students United for Reproductive Justice at Berkeley and the justCARE campaign. The views expressed here her own.