‘Right to Access Act’ gets revised

Morgan Park, Editor-in-Chief

The “College Student Right to Access Act,” or SB 320, a bill that would mandate California colleges offer medical abortion pills to students who might seek them, has seen a significant change after passing in the Senate Health Committee on April 19 — removing community colleges from its language altogether. This means that if the bill were to pass, community colleges like Bakersfield College would not be included in its mandate, just UCs and CSUs. The change in the bill came primarily from a position filed by the Health Services Association-California Community Colleges to omit community colleges. When asked why community colleges would be removed from the bill, BC’s Student Health & Wellness Center director Ray Purcell explained that offering such a service would be financially unviable for schools like BC.

“The logistics and expense of this would be staggering, and funding would inevitably require student health fees be increased to the maximum established by the state of $20 per student, and some other funding source,” Purcell said. Currently, the entirety of the Health Center’s funding comes from a $13 student health fee that most students pay each semester. According to Purcell, there’s a lot more to the process of offering abortion pills than simply carrying the drug.

“According to regulations established by the FDA, [the abortion pill] must be purchased and kept in stock by the clinic; it can’t be dispensed by a pharmacy,” Purcell wrote in an email. “A pregnancy must be confirmed by two blood tests (an additional blood test needs to be done as well and a product called Rhogam, an expensive drug with specific storage requirements, may need to be administered with certain Rh incompatibilities) and then dated by ultrasound — meaning blood draws, the ultrasound machine and a licensed technician. An obstetrician-gynecologist with hospital admitting privileges must be on duty at ALL times,” he said.

In its current form, the Health Center operates at a lower level of sophistication than would be required for an abortion pill service, offering primarily over-the counter drugs and mental health counseling for students. The only contraceptive they currently carry are condoms. “Given that SB 320 in its current iteration would require that all this be done on campus and the services be available around the clock, I assume this was the rationale for community college health clinic exemption,” Purcell said.

“On the other hand, reproductive health clinics currently have all this equipment and trained staff on-hand and utilize it for many other purposes multiple times every day.” Purcell doesn’t see the new financial burden as a practical step for community colleges that operate on a smaller scale with fewer assets. “It’s simply impractical for the most well-equipped community colleges to expand into this costly service only to duplicate existing community services,” he said.