I recently addressed a California state assembly committee to talk about Senate Bill 24, one of many abortion experiments legislators are considering in my home state. It would mandate that all California public universities distribute RU-486 abortion pills in their student health centers.
These pills cause abortions for women who are up to 10 weeks pregnant, well after which the baby has developed a heartbeat. Tensions were high as my colleague and I began our very short allowance of two minutes each to explain our opposition. Given the risks to my peers and fellow Californians, I had to try.
Providing abortion on school campuses is already a ridiculous concept, but the bill, which is expected to go before the full California Assembly by summer’s end, contains numerous flaws. My testimony consisted of three main points.
First, the bill author, state Sen. Connie Leyva, continuously argues that the bill is about “access” to abortion and that public university campuses are not in close proximity to abortion pill providers. Most campuses, however, are within just a few miles of these facilities. The bill places the mandate on all 34 campuses, costing millions of dollars for a completely unnecessary program.
Second, although the bill is supposed to save students money for car service transportation to off-campus abortion appointments, the public university systems have stated repeatedly that they will need to raise mandatory student fees to fund this on-campus program. And in California, Medi-Cal patients receive free transportation services to these appointments.
Third, one of the author’s key witnesses testifying at several hearings in support of the bill co-authored an article demonstrating the failure rate of RU-486: If the student is six-weeks pregnant when she takes the pills, the failure rate is about 3 percent, but if the woman is nine- to 10-weeks pregnant, the failure rate is more than 15 percent. The author estimates 500 students will take these drugs statewide on campus each month, so at least 15-75 students will have a failed abortion each month and need a second, surgical abortion.
My colleague, a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, pointed out concerns regarding the safety of the abortion pill and the fact that there are no conscience protections for student health center professionals nor for the students funding the program with their mandatory fees.
The morality of abortion was not mentioned in the hearing. This bill is so poorly designed that it continues to be opposed even by pro-choice people, including California’s former governor, Jerry Brown, who vetoed last year’s version of the bill, SB-320.
When a pro-life legislator questioned how the universities are expected to handle the biomedical waste that would be left in campus bathrooms and sewage system after the abortions, the author and her expert witness struggled to respond, ultimately pushing aside the question.
Although the University of California and California State University school systems have not supported the bill, and their testimony has changed very little from the first hearing in 2017 to the most recent hearing this past June, their reluctance is clear. They stress concerns regarding financial liability and appropriateness of maintaining an abortion program on campus.
In most of the SB-24 hearings I have attended, the bill’s author has had a student testify about being unable to get abortion pills in time, leading to the student obtaining a surgical abortion instead. The UC representative’s testimony points out that this issue was a result of the universities’ referral process but that it does not warrant the dramatic response of mandating that every public university become an abortion provider. Of course, with the high failure rate of the drugs, the students’ experience may include a second, surgical abortion anyway.
The legislators ignored our comments. The author did not respond to any of the arguments my colleague, the pro-life legislator, the University of California, or I made. Each legislator who continues to vote in favor of this bill simply turns a blind eye to any serious concerns or even contradictions within the bill itself. This isn’t about pro-life versus pro-choice. It’s about common sense versus a radically ideological agenda.
California legislators this term are considering several bills or resolutions that either directly or indirectly propel a pro-abortion agenda, including one that even offers a tax credit for motion pictures made in California rather than states that restrict abortion. In 2016, the state approved a sexual education curriculum written by organizations including Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union; this is now undergoing revisions that include proposed sexual education content as early as kindergarten, at one point even encouraging sexual behavior as young as the fifth grade. Most if not all of these bills, resolutions, and revisions will likely pass.
California is one of the most aggressively pro-abortion states in America. It already has 150 abortion facilities and more than 500 abortion providers statewide, no restriction on race- or sex-selective abortion, and no requirement for verbal counseling including optional ultrasound information for women to make an informed decision about pregnancy.
In fact, California is the one and only state listed as “very supportive” of abortion rights in the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute’s latest analysis of state abortion laws. Being active in this fight for the last three years as I attended a California public university, I know I have a lot to learn, yet I have already seen so much of the politics surrounding the legislature’s abortion agenda. I am grieved by the carelessness of our representatives who would push forward this reckless bill despite its many problems.
But if you think this extremism will stay right here in California, think again. It’s looking more and more like we’re just the guinea pig state.