Abortion Access on College Campuses: Advocating for California’s SB 320

By Emily Escobar

I first learned about SB 320 when I logged onto Facebook one day and noticed I had been invited to an event hosted by JustCARE, an organization dedicated to helping students across California access reproductive health services on their campus. JustCARE was promoting a student advocacy day in Sacramento, California, where students would be showing their support for the bill, which would ensure that all students at public universities in California have access to medication abortion at their student health centers. Of course I 100% supported this bill but, due to travel expenses, I wasn’t sure about attending the advocacy day. Luckily for me, JustCARE offered to cover any expenses for students who wanted to attend the advocacy day, as well as provide a stipend for those who would be taking days off of work. so I decided to sign myself up. As a low-income student who cannot afford to miss work, I felt very grateful to have an organization that enabled me to do social justice work by supporting my financial needs.

So, I took a flight up to Sacramento and on Monday, May 21st, 2018, we started our advocacy day bright and early. This was my first time ever speaking with elected representatives or their staff so I was extremely nervous and scared about how it would go. We spent the morning learning all the details about the bill, which would require all student health centers at public universities to offer medication abortion for students on and after January 1st, 2022. Some other important info about SB 320:

  • A consortium of funders has stepped forward to cover full costs for implementation on every university campus in California.
  • Estimated costs are between $14-20 million and the funders are also prepared to increase the funds if greater need exists.
  • Private universities and community colleges can choose to opt-in.

We also attended a presentation that taught us how to advocate to our legislators and then divided into groups to practice. While making posters to show our support for the bill, Senator Connie M. Leyva, who represents the 20th district and introduced SB 320, stopped by to personally thank us for coming out to show our support.

This was a very empowering moment because seeing so many people – including a senator – show their support for reproductive rights felt great, both as a woman and as a feminist.

Finally, it was time to head to our meetings. I was filled with nerves on the way there because I wanted to make sure that I said everything I could to help get this bill passed. Our first meeting was with a representative for Assembly Member Freddie Rodriguez and it went very well: I made sure to emphasize the need for this bill to pass and even discussed my personal experience as a college student and how having accessible reproductive health services on campus would benefit me greatly. Our second meeting – with the representative for Assembly Member Jose Medina – went just as well and this time around I felt much more comfortable speaking. Speaking with my legislators was much easier than I expected and I really enjoyed advocating for SB 320 as I know it will help a lot of students like myself.

The bill has successfully passed through the Assembly Health Committee and the Assembly on Higher Education Committee, so it now heads to the Assembly Appropriation Committee later in the summer. If you would like to keep up to date with the progress of SB 320, as well as find out how you can show your support, check out justCARE’s website for more information! 

Students are already seeking abortion care, but are being forced to go off-campus to see a provider they don’t know. SB 320 would help alleviate this burden and make abortion care accessible for all students on public universities in California.

By Emily Escobar

Emily (she/her) is FMF’s National Campus Organizer for California. She grew up in Los Angeles, but was born in Guatemala and is proud of her immigrant identity. She is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, with a Bachelors degree in Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies and a History minor. During her time at CSULB, she helped revive the feminist student organization on campus, the Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Student Association (WGSSSA), and served as its president during her senior year. She advocates for feminism using an intersectional lens and brings a voice to folks from marginalized communities. She is passionate about immigration reform, reproductive justice, and LGBTQ+ rights.

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