Alabama and Georgia passed abortion bans. California could make it more accessible

As state legislatures in Alabama, Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky and Mississippi pass laws restricting women’s access to abortion services, California lawmakers are poised to vote on a bill that would expand that access on college campuses.

Senate Bill 24, sponsored by Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, requires every campus student health center in the California State University and University of California systems to provide medication-assisted abortion services.

“What’s happening nationwide is nothing short of shocking,” Leyva said in an interview Friday. “Roe v. Wade has already been litigated and already been won.”

Leyva said that it is critical that California “stand at the forefront of all issues, but especially women’s issues.”

The bill, which returned to the Legislature after being vetoed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown in 2018, passed through the California Senate Committees on Education and Appropriations, and could be heard on the Senate floor as soon as Monday. It must also pass through the Assembly before going before the governor.

“We are very hopeful. Because then-Lt. Gov. (Gavin) Newsom made a comment that he would not have vetoed the bill,” Leyva said.

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Newsom has tweeted several times to condemn the Alabama Legislature for passing a bill, now signed into law, criminalizing abortion. That law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2020, could see doctors who perform abortions facing sentences up to 99 years in prison.

The governor also has criticized Missouri’s recently passed ban on abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy.

“Make no mistake — this is about power. About control. It’s a direct attack on women’s rights — and it’s decades in the making,” Newsom tweeted Thursday.

If signed into law, SB 24 would cost an estimated $7.8 million dollars during the 2019-20 through 2022-2023 fiscal years. After that, it would cost up to $3.3 million a year to fund; that money would go toward campuses providing 24-hour support, equipment purchases and liability insurance premiums, according to a bill analysis.

The bill is supported by dozens of groups, including abortion rights groups like co-sponsor NARAL Pro-Choice California, student groups and civil rights groups, as well as 10 individuals.

“Even though we’re not seeing this kind of aggressive, violent, oppressive legislation in California (that other states are passing) ... one of the things our organization talks about a lot is there’s still work to do here,” said Laura Jimenez, executive director of California Latinas for Reproductive Justice.

Jimenez said that SB 24 is part of a larger push by activists, community advocacy groups and lawmakers in order to improve access to reproductive health services for a variety of under-served groups.

SB 24 is opposed by 17 organizations, primarily anti-abortion advocacy groups such as California Family Council and student groups. Dozens of people, many of them identifying themselves as Catholic, spoke against the bill at a Senate Education Committee hearing in April.

The group Faith and Public Policy condemned the use of state general funds, university funds and student fees to pay for the medication.

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