Critics ask Calif. governor to veto ‘shortsighted’ college abortion drug bill

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California Gov. Jerry Brown should veto a bill that mandates abortion drugs at state university campus health centers, said pro-life advocates, citing both financial and ethical objections. 

“California politicians put the interests of the abortion industry ahead of the needs of both students and the colleges and universities with this shortsighted vote today,” Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, said Aug. 29.

“Schools should be focused on educating the next generation, not ensuring that it’s easy to end the lives of future generations,” Hawkins said. “We call on Governor Jerry Brown to put the safety of women and the preborn ahead of this abortion industry push to get on college campuses and to veto S.B. 320.”

The bill passed the State Senate on Aug 30 by a 26-13 vote and heads to the governor’s desk. It mandates that all on-campus student health centers at University of California and California State University campuses provide the abortion drugs mifepristone and misoprostol, which work together to cause an abortion.

In its action alert on the bill, the California Catholic Conference said the state “should have no role in encouraging or funding abortions, which take the life of a human being, in our public post-secondary educational institutions – or anywhere, for that matter.” It said the bill “inappropriately requires the state treasurer to accept donations and administer an abortion promotion fund.”

The bill as written claims to avoid taxpayer funding. It would fund startup costs such as equipment and training through the Women’s Foundation of California, Tara Health Foundation and other private donors who have said they will grant up to $200,000 to each campus health center. Donors plan separate $200,000 grants to the two university systems for 24-hour medical advice lines, telemedicine services and billing services.

The health centers must comply by the year 2022.

Critics said the drug abortion process is traumatic and dangerous. College women would have to have an induced miscarriage in their dorm room or shared bathroom facilities.

Citing FDA reports, Students for Life said drug-induced abortions have caused heavy bleeding, infection and incomplete abortions that require surgical intervention. Some women have died. Furthermore, the FDA says that healthcare providers who prescribe the abortion drug “must have the ability to date pregnancies accurately and to diagnose ectopic pregnancies.” This would require ultrasound equipment, which is expensive, and not present on all campus health centers.

Critics are also skeptical that the bill will in fact avoid taxpayer spending and worry it will be funded through student fees or insurance coverage.

“We are also already hearing from students who do not want to see their school fees support abortion on campus, and we will work with them as they fight to prevent that misuse of their resources,” said Hawkins, whose group has over 90 affiliates in California alone.

Backers of the drugs say they have a strong safety record, especially when compared to complications from surgical abortion.

Daniel Grossman, professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of California San Francisco and director of the university-based research group Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health, said it is “a simple procedure that can be offered by primary care doctors or nurse practitioners on campus.” Pushing the state universities to offer it “would be recognizing that this should be a part of basic health care,” he said, according to the Fresno Bee newspaper.

The abortion drugs are different from the morning-after pill, commonly referred to as “Plan B.” That drug, which works by barring a fertilized egg from implanting in the mother’s womb, is already provided at many health centers. One University of California campus distributes it through a vending machine.

In its 2017 backgrounder on the bill, the California Catholic Conference stated its opposition to abortion and said the bill will “hurt young women.”

“We support policies and services that assist pregnant women to make life-affirming choices. We advocate for programs which offer medical, economic and emotional support for pregnant women and children, so that there is never any incentive to abort a child.”

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