California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill on Friday requiring medication abortion services at public state universities starting in 2023.
"As other states and the federal government go backward, restricting reproductive freedom, in California we are moving forward, expanding access and reaffirming a woman's right (to) choose," Newsom, a Democrat, said in a statement. "We're removing barriers to reproductive health -- increasing access on college campuses and using technology to modernize how patients interact with providers."
The bill joins a slew of others passed by Democratic-leaning states looking to strengthen or expand abortion access as Republican-leaning states, emboldened by the conservative-majority Supreme Court and efforts by the federal government limiting abortion, push measures to restrict it.
Medication abortion, a nonsurgical procedure that's effective until about 10 weeks into a pregnancy, accounted for about 39% of abortions in 2017, according to abortion rights research group the Guttmacher Institute. There are more than 400,000 female students at California's state university campuses, the bill states.
California's bill would allocate $200,000 to each University of California and California State University student health center "to pay for the cost, both direct and indirect, of medication abortion readiness." This would include equipment, staff training costs, telehealth services and facility and security upgrades. The measure would also require the campuses to report on medication abortion.
"By ensuring that abortion care is available on campus, college students will not have to choose between delaying important medical care or needing to travel long distances or even missing classes or work," the bill's sponsor, Democratic state Sen. Connie Leyva, said in a statement.
The law will not go into effect until 2023, and depends on $10,290,000 in private money to fund the initiative. A group of backers, including the Women's Foundation of California and Tara Health Foundation, raised the money, according to justCARE, a coalition of abortion rights groups supporting the initiative.
"With Governor Newsom's signature today, California is showing the nation that providing medication abortion on campus is the right thing to do," said Ruth Shaber, president of the Tara Health Foundation, in a statement. "The bill is a testament to California's commitment and the belief that once a student has decided to end a pregnancy, they should be able to get the care they need without unnecessary barriers or delay."
Anti-abortion groups were quick to decry the new law.
Lila Rose, president of the anti-abortion group Live Action, tweeted that with the bill's signage, "Instead of empowering women with life-affirming options, CA is telling young women they aren't strong enough to succeed without killing their children."
"Student fees underwrite the costs of the healthcare centers on campuses, which will now be required to distribute deadly chemical abortion pills and healthcare professionals will also be forced to hand them out no matter the consequences to women's health," Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins said in a statement.
The Food and Drug Administration states that the most common form of medication abortion is "safe and effective," and multiple studies have found complications associated with the procedure to be very rare.