Abortion access in California

NICK EICHER, HOST: It’s Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.  First up on The World and Everything in It: abortion access in California.

EICHER: The number of abortions in that state has dropped by almost half over the past three decades. So says the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute. A variety of factors has contributed to the drop. Among them: fewer pregnancies and more pregnant women choosing life.

REICHARD: But abortion supporters say the decrease is because women don’t have enough access. So California lawmakers are trying to allow more chemical abortions. Those come in the form of pills women can take at home to end their pregnancies. The recent effort targets college-age women.

But in a surprise veto, California’s Democratic governor stopped the move—and his own legislature—this week.

WORLD Radio’s Kyle Ziemnick has our story.

KYLE ZIEMNICK, REPORTER: Women between 18 and 24 years old account for about 42 percent of abortions nationwide. But some lawmakers in California say college students need better access to abortion.

Here’s state Senator Connie Leyva.

LEYVA: I firmly believe that all students should be able to decide what to do with their own bodies and when to factor a family into their lives. After all, one does not lose the constitutional right to end a pregnancy simply because they are college students.

Senate Bill 320 passed earlier this year with overwhelming support. It would have required all university health centers to prescribe RU-486. That’s the two-drug combo that causes what’s known as a chemical abortion.

The push to make RU-486 more widely available is part of a renewed strategy in the pro-abortion movement. Here’s John Gerardi with Right to Life Central California.

GERARDI: Accessibility is kinda driving everything on the pro-choice side right now. So there’s this whole attitude that we want to make sure all women have universal access to abortion.

RU-486 now accounts for an estimated 31 percent of all non-hospital U.S. abortions. But Gerardi said this was the first attempt to require a public university to dispense it. The legislature approved $200,000 per university in new funding for the effort.

Pro-abortion studies say RU-486 is harmless. But the government has reported 22 deaths from the drug since 2000. Pro-life advocates point to cases of severe cramping and bleeding, symptoms the mother experiences alone, without help from a medical professional.

Brian Johnston is director of the California Pro-Life Council.

JOHNSTON: It actually is a very powerful artificial steroid that attacks the woman’s body. It changes her hormones so that she no longer provides nutrition to this unique human being in her womb.

The bill would have made it possible for women to get the drug without any face-to-face interaction with a healthcare provider. So-called “telehealth” services are designed to make abortion access as easy as possible.

GERARDI: This’ll allow women to basically get out their smartphones and within seconds start chatting online with a nurse practitioner at the student health center and to … get a prescription for a chemical abortion right there over the phone.

Pro-life advocates are concerned this concept will spread beyond public universities—and from states to the federal level.

GERARDI: If you’re requiring this public institution to provide chemical abortion, then you can require any institution to provide chemical abortion.

Pro-life groups had been preparing to sue over the legislation, but on Sunday, Governor Jerry Brown shocked them. He vetoed the bill, saying it was unnecessary because most public universities already have a local abortion clinic.

Kristan Hawkins is the president of Students for Life of America—which has held rallies opposing the bill.

HAWKINS: So we should be thankful that we kept this at bay. Lives will be saved, babies will be saved, women are going to be saved by this brave action from the governor.

But Hawkins is treating this like a temporary victory.

HAWKINS: As soon as this veto was announced, they were already promising to bring it back up into session again, in the new year. Obviously, this is not going to be the end of it.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Kyle Ziemnick.

(Photo/Facebook) The student health center at University of California.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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