Abortion pills will soon be available on all UC and CSU campuses

However, students in the Cal State system — and those who waive the insurance requirement at UC — will have to pay to receive the drugs. California State University, Sacramento expects drug costs to be between $60 and $80.

“There are still many areas where access to abortion is perhaps less than perfect or varies between different campuses and surrounding communities, or for different students within those communities,” said Alex Niles, president of government relations for the UC Student Association. “Access to reproductive health care, in general, must be central and fully accessible.”

To meet the Jan. 1 deadline, Cal State and UC campuses that do not currently provide access to medical abortion — including UC San Diego, UC Davis, and UC Riverside — will need to train providers and update information on websites so that students are aware that the service is available. The COVID-19 pandemic has delayed some of that preparation, said Annie Sumberg, senior director of medical abortion access for Essential Access Health, a reproductive health advocacy and consulting group that helps campuses prepare and offers Zoom training sessions to on-campus providers.

Several campuses also said they were considering offering telehealth appointments for medical abortion and allowing students to pick up pills from pharmacies closer to home.

The FDA approved sending abortion drugs by mail in 2021, and demand for telehealth has increased during the pandemic.

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Assistant Vice President for Health and Wellness Tina Hadaway-Mellis also discussed the possibility of having prescriptions sent to students. Increased access to telehealth, she said, has been one of the “very few silver linings as a result of the pandemic.”

“Whether [students] prefer to be somewhere that gives them a sense of privacy, or if they don’t live very close to campus, if they only come to campus one or two days a week, but live at a time away, a telehealth appointment would be much more accessible and convenient,” Hadaway-Mellis said.

UC Berkeley has been offering medical abortions at its Tang Center since fall 2020, with students often able to get same-day appointments, according to University Health Services spokesperson Tami Cate, who said 34 medical abortions had so far been performed.

Currently, UC Berkeley administers medical abortions only onsite, but it may add telehealth options in the future, she said.

Referring students to campus medical centers is especially important, abortion rights activists say, as California expects a surge of people seeking abortions in states where it is now illegal.

UCLA’s Center on Reproductive Health, Law and Policy expects the influx could reach some 16,000 people each year.

There are also several areas of the state where abortions are already difficult to access. These “abortion deserts” are particularly concentrated in California’s Central Valley, said Larissa Mercado-López, chair of women’s, gender and sexuality studies at Fresno State University.

“We have vast tracts of land without abortion providers or even comprehensive reproductive health clinics,” Mercado-López said.

Forty percent of California counties do not currently have an abortion provider, representing approximately 3% of the state’s childbearing population. according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research and advocacy organization. There are several Cal State and UC campuses located in these areas, including those in Bakersfield, Fullerton and Stanislaus, said Cohen, the UCLA reproductive rights expert.

Raising awareness

Regardless of how far individual campuses have come in implementing the new law, advocates stress the importance of raising awareness about abortion services at student health centers.

“It’s not well advertised,” said Esmeralda Quintero-Cubillan, president of the UC Student Association. “Most students, if you asked them, wouldn’t know that we offer medical abortions or that you can seek reproductive health services.”

Many anti-abortion groups, including the California Family Council, have opposed the state’s bill requiring public universities to offer medical abortions, but none returned CalMatters’ requests for comment. .

Abortion rights activists say they are preparing to educate campus communities about the availability of medical abortion. URGE, a group that organizes young people to support reproductive rights, gives presentations on medical abortion to gender studies classes on various campuses and to students pursuing health-related careers.

The presentations highlight the safety of medical abortions, introduce the public to the new law and provide insight into the reproductive justice movement, said Callie Flores, a UC Merced student who serves on the group’s student advisory board. The council also conducts anonymous surveys that ask students for their thoughts on what their campuses should be doing to support access to abortion, and shares the results with campus health centers.

“We’re trying to push that, you know, being abortion-positive means there’s no shame, no stigma, and no excuses related to abortion,” Flores said. “Abortion is not a swear word. It’s not a bad decision. It’s a decision people make for themselves, and it’s totally valid.

After reeling from the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, Flores said activism gave him purpose and made him feel like he was making a difference.

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