On June 24, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the historic piece of legislation that made access to abortion a federal right in the United States for half a century.
With the right to a safe and accessible abortion now left up to individual states, California is taking steps to guarantee residents that the demise of Roe v. Wade will not affect or limit their right to an abortion.
Under state law, many college students can already exercise their reproductive rights on campus. In 2019, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 24 (SB 24), which requires CSU and UC campuses to offer non-surgical medication abortions, also known as “abortion pills,” for students by January 2023.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruling will not affect this requirement. With abortion criminalized in some states, SB 24 is one of the first pieces of legislation in the country to give college students safe access to abortion pills.
“This bill then makes medication abortion available to all public university students,” said Fresno State President Saúl Jiménez- Sandoval. “It also provides one-time funding for CSU campuses to prepare to offer medication abortions.”
Medication will be provided by mail and at the Fresno State Student Health and Counseling Center (SHCC).
“The two medications used for medicinal abortions are Mifeprex (Mifepristone or RU- 486) and Misoprostol. In addition, there will probably be a couple of other medications dispensed for pain [and] cramping and for nausea,” said Lauren Nickerson, Associate Vice President for University Communications.
Each of the 23 campuses in California will receive $200,000 to fund this new service. Fresno State is also planning to purchase new equipment, according to Medical Services Director Dr. Robert Mitchell.
“Up until this point we’ve never had a hemoglobinometer. Now we are going to have to have one on-site,” he said.
Fresno State health providers have been preparing to offer this service to students since March and ongoing training is still in progress, Mitchell said. Nurse Practitioner Sandra Loehner, who has previous experience in women’s reproductive health, will be one of the staff members administering this new medical service and has been providing training to other staff members, Mitchell said.
Fresno State students who visit the health center to receive an abortion pill will also receive educational materials to guide them through the procedure.
“We are in the process of making new material where there will be visual instructions of where to place the pill inside their mouth, and [it] will also include a visual representation of bleeding and what is considered normal versus not normal after this procedure,” Mitchell said.
He also emphasized that the mental health team would be available to support students during every step of the process. Mitchell said that when it comes to the safety of taking the pill, students should feel confident and safe. He said the medication has already been used in Europe for years and that there’s only a 1% failure rate.
“If 23 campuses are on board to offer this service, then it’s found to be very safe and complication rates are very, very low,” Mitchell said. “This initiative is really about the College Student Right to Access Act, which was undertaken for patient safety, and that’s what we are here to do, to provide safety for our students.”
Ruby Pereida, a Fresno State junior majoring in sociology, said she was unaware of SB 24 and Fresno State’s preparation to offer abortion services, but emphasized the importance of students having access on campus.
“Students don’t always have transportation to go and get access to an abortion. Even when it comes to abortion by mail, students may not always have a stable mailing address,” Pereida said. “Being able to get it on campus is a very good thing.”
Out-of-pocket costs for students will vary depending on insurance. As with all medications on campus, there is a cost, according to Mitchell.
“We are anticipating Mifepristone will cost approximately $50. Misoprostol is projected to cost around $10. The medical providers may also identify other medications to dispense as needed,” Nickerson said. “We anticipate the entire regimen will be $100, although final pricing still needs to be determined.”
Family PACT, a government assistance program, does not pay for the medications or the clinician’s time, so the cost will need to be paid by the student. Pereida expressed concerns regarding out-of-pocket costs for students which could make accessing abortion pills inaccessible for some students.
“If it’s an emergency and you don’t have the funds for it, it shouldn’t cost anything. If it does, it should be part of our health bill that we have to pay as part of our tuition,” she said.
Dr. Cindy Schorzman, medical director at UC Davis Student Health and Counseling Services, told EdSource that UC Davis has established a fund for students facing financial difficulties to help cover the cost of the pill to guarantee access to all students.
At this time, Mitchell said he is unaware of any plans to provide financial assistance to help cover costs for students who may not be able to afford the pills. After choosing to exercise her right to an abortion in the past, Pereida said she now empathizes with students who find themselves in the same situation.
“You find yourself asking, ‘What am I going to do? and ‘How am I going to afford it?’ and ‘What are the steps?’” Pereida said. “Knowing [that] my school offers this and that I can go [to the health center] is a good option to have.”
Pereida said she is still concerned about whether or not students will be given time after the procedure if they choose to have an abortion.
“They should be able to get time off to be able to mourn on their own or with support,” Pereida said.
Other students are more neutral when it comes to abortion and providing students access to the pill on campus. Jordyn Jurado, a junior majoring in liberal studies, can see the perspectives of those both for and against SB24.
“A life is a life, whether it’s day one of pregnancy or week 11 of pregnancy, and you’re still in a way playing God, deciding whether that life gets to survive or whether it ended right there,” Jurado said. “It’s saddening to see a life ended so abruptly when that life didn’t have a say in it.”
On the other hand, Jurado can empathize with rape victims and those with financial hardships, and stressed that she is neutral on the topic, being able to support both sides. Like Pereida, Jurado also said that she believes that students who do receive the pill should not have to pay in consideration of how expensive textbooks and other school necessities already cost.
More information on SB 24 will be available as Fresno State continues to prepare, according to Mitchell.
“As we move along in the process, we will be making information available for the student body,” he said.
Correction: Sept. 21, 2022
In a previous version of this article, the headline incorrectly stated the time abortion pills would be offered. Fresno State will offer abortion pills in January 2023.