Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill Sept. 30 which would have mandated access to abortion pills on public university campuses.
Senate Bill 320 would have guaranteed students at the University of California and California State University access to medication abortions in student health centers. Students across the UC lobbied, phonebanked and collected petition signatures for the bill.
Brown said in his veto statement he does not think the bill was necessary since abortion services are available to students at off-campus clinics.
Atreyi Mitra and Aneri Suthar, student advocates for the bill, said they disagreed with Brown’s statement.
Mitra, a second-year human biology and society student, said she thinks Brown failed to account for obstacles students face in getting to clinics off campus.
“As a white man who has grown up relatively privileged, he’s not accounting for many barriers students face,” Mitra said.
Mitra said many clinics are closed on weekends and operate during hours when students have class, forcing them to adjust their class schedule to get to a clinic. She added Los Angeles public transportation and traffic impose both time and financial costs on those seeking abortions.
Mitra also said this is especially the case for issues specific to women from financially disadvantaged backgrounds or communities where addressing sex and sexual violence is stigmatized.
Suthar, a third-year human biology and society student, said advocates and organizations surpassed their goals to privately fund the bill.
“It’s privately funded with way, way more investment than was necessary to implement it,” Suthar said. “It would’ve been free money for the UC that would’ve sustained the program for years to come.”
Claire Doan, a spokesperson for the University of California Office of the President, said the UC believes students should have access to affordable and convenient reproductive health care and will work to provide quality care.
She added UC student health centers will continue to provide referrals to nearby facilities for abortion services when requested.
Suthar said reproductive policy cannot be effective in practice if people do not have access to care.
“In California, abortion is legal, most constituents are pro-choice, but that’s not the end of the story,” Suthar said. “It doesn’t matter if no one has access.”
Suthar added medication abortions require taking two round trips to the clinic, one for the pills and one for a mandatory follow-up.
“With something as pertinent and timely, since medication abortion is only legal up to 10 weeks (into the pregnancy), it’s counting days at that point. It’s a matter of timeliness. ” Suthar said. “Two round trips isn’t something that can really wait.”
Suthar also added there is no guarantee employers or professors will consider the trips to the clinic as excused absences.
Mitra said the bill was special because it was created and advocated for by students.
“Why this bill … was so amazing is because (campaigning) was completely student-run,” Mitra said. “Advocates at UC Berkeley recognized a need for students and acted on it.”
Mitra added though the bill was defeated this time, she believes students will push for the bill again in the future.
“I do see it making a comeback, but keep in mind this process took a year and a half,” Mitra said. “It’s going to take time before we get, if we get, to the governor’s desk again.”