This week, students at the University of California, Berkeley proposed that medical abortions should be available on campus. The bill, Resolution 69, was unanimously passed by the student government. While student advocates for the measure say that medical abortions—otherwise known as the non-surgical abortion pill—provided through University Health Services would reduce the burden on women who attend the school, campus administrators are dragging their feet.
"UC Berkeley's University Health Services (UHS) fully supports women's access to the full spectrum of contraception, emergency contraception, abortion and other pregnancy alternatives," said Roqua Montez, director of communications and media relations, in a statement to the Washington Times. "Fortunately, the Berkeley campus is surrounded by a high-quality, well-established network of health providers who are expert in this area."
The bill's text, however, argues that this is not enough. "There is an unmet need of medication abortion to students, and UHS has the necessary resources to provide medication abortion," it reads in part. "When medication abortion is not available at UHS, students who are seeking an abortion face financial, time, and travel constraint burdens that create negative impacts on academic performance and mental health."
Most college health centers provide basic reproductive care: contraception—including IUDs—pap smears, STD testing, and pregnancy counseling. But very few colleges offer on-site medical abortions, though it would make sense. One in ten women will have an abortion by the age of 20, according to the Guttmacher Institute, and access is crucial. Currently, there's only one clinic that provides abortions within walking distance to the UC Berkeley campus. An attempt to walk to the two nearest Planned Parenthood clinics would take you well over an hour.
A 2015 survey of gynecologic services available on 152 university campuses by American College Health Association (ACHA), an advocacy organization for advancing the health of college students, reports that only two institutions provide on-site medical abortions. That's 1.3 percent. Even more troublingly, of all the institutions surveyed, only 65.8 percent explicitly provide referrals for abortion services.
A representative from the ACHA notes that the organization "doesn't have any official position of whether schools should or should not offer [abortion] services."
Watch this: The Abortion Pill
Indeed, it seems like providing access to abortion services is not a conversation that is currently being discussed widely on college campuses. Even the Guttmacher Institute, which reliably provides thorough statistics on issues relating to reproductive rights and sexual health, does not currently collect information on colleges and abortion clinics.
Students at UC Berkeley, however, are hoping to start that conversation. "We feel that student health is something that the administration has not been focused on," Aanchal Chugh, the student senator who proposed the clinic, told CBS. "And it's important for students to do well academically.
"Medication abortion has been used globally for nearly 40 years, and is safer than Tylenol, Flonase, Zithromax, or even Viagra," said Kaylie Hanson, the national communications director for NARAL Pro-Choice America. "With this bill, these students are taking an important step toward recognizing that medication abortion is an important part of the full range of reproductive health services and when women have access to it, they're better able to take control of their own health care."
Representatives from UC Berkeley did not respond to Broadly's request for comment.