By Camille Rodriguez, Pacific Southwest Regional Coordinator
“Does this keep you awake at night? Does it concern you that there is a risk students will need emergency care? I want a yes or no answer. I don’t want to hear this ‘tweener’ business. Is it on your conscience? Yes or No?” Assembly Member Jim Patterson asked Senator Connie Leyva (bill sponsor) and the CU/CSU representatives.
On June 26th, SB320 was heard in the Assembly Higher Education Committee. According to the FDA 22 deaths have been reported due to RU486, the abortion pill, and 3% of women who take RU486 will need emergency care, including surgical intervention. Authors of the bill have claimed that over 500 women per month opt to take the abortion pill. Using their own numbers, if passed, the California higher education system would be putting at least 15 students per month at risk, 180 students per year, 1 student needing emergency care, every other day. To be clear, this is not Plan B. RU486 can be taken up to the 10th week in pregnancy. This bill is about abortion. This bill needs to be stopped.
Students for Life of America has worked closely with students across California since the fall in efforts to defeat this bill. This hearing was no different. Students from as far south as San Diego to as far north as Chico drove and bussed to Sacramento for the hearing on Tuesday. While enjoying a late dinner of salad and pizza near a hotel pool, the students gathered to strategize for the day ahead. SFLA California Regional Coordinators Anna Arend and Camille Rodriguez went through the bill, RU486, talking points and media training to prepare the students for their busy day.
Tuesday started early with the students demonstrating on the steps of the California Capitol. They gathered with signs that read, “Don’t Turn Our Campus into an Abortion Facility,” “Oppose SB-320 #NoCampusAbortions,” and “SB-320 Deserves Admins Opposition!” We also used the No Campus Abortions display which consisted of 22 toilet seats, each representing a woman who has died after taking the abortion pill, as well as a toilet bowl, and informative banners. The toilets are meant to show that women and children are worth and deserve so much more. Sticky notes placed on the lids read, “This is no place for a child to die #FlushSB320.” Students engaged citizens as they walked by, sharing their concerns and asking for support.
After demonstrating on the steps, students gathered in the Capitol Rotunda as they prepared to lobby their assembly members. Their presence was known as they walked the halls of the capitol, each student wearing a bright blue “I AM THE PRO-LIFE GENERATION” t-shirt. On the bus ride home, students discussed the witness within a pro-life t-shirt. One student said, “It’s crazy how a t-shirt can cause so many reactions among people,” noting an 11-year-old Girl Scout giving her a dirty look. Others noted comments like, “You’re brave to be wearing that here.” The Capitol isn’t lacking when it comes to abortion supporters. Even still, students walked from office to office boldly and were very articulate as they expressed their concerns with the bill to each representative. Concerns of student safety, campus liability, and increased student fees were at the top of their list. The bill, as written, will use private funding to implement the program until 2022. After 2022, funding is unmentioned with no prohibition of student fees or tax dollars being used for on campus abortions.
This funding issue was amongst the top questions during the hearing. The committee members grilled Senator Leyva on the issue of funding, making it very clear there was no plan to fund the bill after 2022 leaving it up to the schools. When asked how they felt about the bill, the representatives of the UC and CSU systems made their ideologies very clear stating, “they supported the effort to give students “reproductive rights,” but they did have fiscal concerns that weren’t relevant to the committee.” This began a series of pressing questions from Assembly Member Catherine Baker (R) who wanted to hear specifics due to serious concerns disclaiming, “and this is coming someone who is pro-choice!” The CSU representative made it very clear that the CSU system was not prepared or able to pay after 2022 nor do they bill for medical services as it is something the schools cannot afford. Digging even deeper, Assembly Member Jim Patterson questioned the schools concern for their students. Again, the representatives stated there is a large concern as the abortion pill doesn’t have a zero-risk factor and the health centers are only open Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm, offering minimal services.
Despite these things the Assembly Higher Education Committee voted along the lines of ideology with an 8-3 passing vote. Though Baker expressed such deep concern, though Chairman Medina stated his own UC Riverside disagrees with the bill, they lead the way in assuring Senator Leyva, they would work together on concerns and passed the bill through committee. Two members abstained from voting and three, including the champion for life, Assemblyman Patterson, voted in opposition.
Frustrated, the students have determined they will not back down. The hearing exploited every loophole this bill has and exposed every concern we have been expressing for months. Sandwiched between a NIFLA win and a Kennedy retirement, this vote won’t stop the pro-life generation. We will keep fighting until the California government knows we are here and we are here to stay.