Imagine yourself being a college student at the University of California Berkeley academically driven and career focused. Then, out of nowhere you get pregnant and do not want to continue the pregnancy. You decide you want to take the abortion pill but to a shocking surprise the college campus does not offer the abortion pill. Instead, you are referred to the nearest Planned Parenthood, which is located in El Cerrito, California that’s just four miles away. Unfortunately, you don’t own a car which mean there is another major hurdle: Walking 10 minutes to the closest BART station; (a public transportation system that runs throughout the Bay area); riding the train for 23 minutes, and then walking another five minutes to the clinic. That’s more than an hour of transportation time away to obtain two pills for a constitutionally guaranteed service. This has been a problem at all college universities throughout the U.S.; including the University of California Berkeley. This prompts the question: Why isn’t medication abortion available at college student health centers?
According to fusion.net, 42 percent of all abortions are obtained by women between the ages of 18 and 24; yet, university health centers do not provide abortions. How crazy is that? Given the number of women in the 18 – 24 year range, you would think college campus offers these types of resources but sadly they do not. The movement has parked not just student advocates, but physicians too.
Now that we are talking about medication abortion, everybody is probably asking the exact question readers are wondering: is Medication abortion safe to use? The answer is yes! Since 2000, more than 1.5 million women in the U.S. have used it to terminate early pregnancies. While the pill can cause side effects such as nausea, fever, and cramping, it has an adverse effect rate of only 0.2 percent. Dr. Jennifer Conti, an Ob/Gyn and clinical instructor at Stanford University, had a few remarks as to why campuses do not offer the abortion pill: “There is no clear medical reason why a university clinic or any clinic should be unable to provide medication abortion. Abortion care is just like any other component of women’s reproductive healthcare. The fact that you would isolate it and say that this particular part of women’s healthcare isn’t actually healthcare is ridiculous. It’s dumfounding. It’s almost hard to come up with a response to someone that would think that.”
It did not take the student activists from Berkeley long to get the administration to release a compelling statement onto why medication abortion should not be administered through the same campus service provider that provides birth control and well-woman’s care. Leading the activism was Aanchal Chugh. Chugh, an alumna from Berkeley who graduated with a double degree in women’s studies and political science, is no stranger to this matter. In Spring 2015, while she ran for Student Government Association (SGA) her platform focused on women’s empowerment on campus. Throughout her tenure with SGA, she helped organize a conference to tackle that issue and one of the concerns that came up from attendees was the lack of campus access to medication abortion for survivors of sexual assault. Chugh is not the only student taking a stand on this matter.
Meghan Warner, another alumna from Berkeley who graduated with a degree in sociology, founded the Students United for Reproductive Justice at Berkeley when she learned that the school had an anti-abortion club that received student government funding, as most school clubs do, but that no pro-choice club existed. The first thing the group did was work with the student health center to secure emergency funding to increase access to emergency contraception on campus. It is good to know that college students are looking further into reproductive and women’s rights!