By: Kalani Phillips, MPH, CPH
In 2019, the state of California passed a bill requiring all UC and CSU campuses to offer medication abortion services by January 1st of this year, regardless of the SCOTUS decision to overturn Roe v. Wade last summer. Now, all 33 public university campuses across the state offer accessible medication abortion services to all students. This groundbreaking legislation increases access to abortion care for thousands of students, both undergraduate and graduate, and provides services at campus health centers, through telehealth services, and other providers.
Signed by Governor Gavin Newsom in October of 2019, the California SB 24 bill (also known as the College Student Right to Access Act) provides one-time funding to California public university and college campuses towards increasing access to medication abortion for students throughout the state. Providing approximately $200,000 per campus in the UC and CSU school systems, this funding is meant to cover costs associated with equipment, telehealth, and training, as well as assist with facility and security upgrades. Considering that roughly 322 to 512 UC to CSU students seek out medication abortion services each month in the state, providing these services is imperative to increasing access among California college students.
Additionally, Essential Access Health (EAH) group, a reproductive health advocacy group, has been continually working with each California campus over the past 2 years to ensure a smooth transition and implementation of this new Medication Abortion Access Program. For campuses like California State University, Fullerton (CSUF), a campus that did not previously offer medication abortion services on campus, all clinical staff participated in system-wide training to better care for students. This includes not only offering pregnancy tests and pregnancy options counseling, but also medication abortion, counseling services, and referrals for specialty care if needed. This additional training is meant to help the program to better serve students. Medication abortion, also known as the abortion pill, can also be dispensed and picked up at the local campus health center, a nearby pharmacy, and/or may even get mailed to the patient’s home.
For students in the CSU school system, appointment costs are covered by the student health fee and included with tuition costs, however the medication itself will be billed to students and may cost approximately $50 through the school. Even though the abortion pill itself isn’t covered, this state funding includes support for any follow-up care that may be needed after the abortion.
For students enrolled in the UC school system, the process to access abortion care is quite similar. For example, at UC Riverside, students can make an appointment at the campus health center if they suspect they may be pregnant. From there, students with a positive pregnancy test wishing to pursue medication abortion care can get the abortion pill mailed to them. This process is similar at other UC schools. Additionally, the cost of medication abortion will be $550 at UC campuses for students that wish to self-pay, but the UC Student Health Insurance Plan (UC CHIP) should cover the total costs associated with the medication, and is subject to deductibles and coinsurance.
Overall, this bill will largely impact current students across California by making abortion care accessible. Considering that not all students across the CSU and UC systems have a reliable mode of transportation, funding, or support, access to places that offer abortion services can be difficult. In some cases, the closest Planned Parenthood is at least a 15-30 minute drive from the campus and may not be walkable. Research from Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) at UC San Francisco has found that most students in California do not have a car. In fact, they found that more than two-thirds of UC students and one-third of CSU students do not have access to personal transportation, and would need to spend at least 2 to 6 hours using public transportation in order to access abortion care services. Moreover, most students have to wait a week or longer to make an appointment for medication abortion, where most facilities have limiting hours and are not open on weekends. Seeking off-campus care can also interrupt coursework, delay degree progress, increase costs of care, and cause anxiety and stress during an already difficult time for students.
It is clear that ensuring access to abortion care through the campus clinics and nearby health centers is imperative. While this program should help make UC and CSU students more comfortable knowing they can access the care they need, it's imperative that each campus makes an effort to raise awareness of this program among their students, so that they know to take advantage of this opportunity if they need to.
Attridge, M. (n.d.). California Public Universities Must Now Offer Medication Abortions. Here’s How the Policy Is Being Implemented. https://www.bestcolleges.com/news/california-public-universities-must-now-offer-medication-abortions/
Mccammon, S. (n.d.). The overturning of Roe v. Wade made history in 2022. https://www.npr.org/2022/12/31/1146453794/the-overturning-of-roe-v-wade-made-history-in-2022
Rodriguez, L. (n.d.). UC and Cal State to Provide Abortion Pill. https://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/uc-and-cal-state-to-provide-abortion-pill/2939456/