Opinion: Governor Newsom Should Veto the ‘Abortion Pill’ Bill

September 26, 2019 Updated: September 26, 2019

Commentary

On Sept. 20, SB24 was presented to Gavin Newsom, the governor of California, for him to sign or veto.

SB24 is a bill that would require University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) student health clinics to provide the abortion pill known as RU-486, Mifeprex, or mifepristone.

The pill is also dubbed “toilet seat abortion,” as the medication induces cramping and bleeding to empty the uterus, thus necessitating prolonged time on the toilet.

SB24 is the second version of the abortion pill bill passed by California legislature. The bill, which was introduced by California Senator Connie M. Leyva in December 2018, passed with a vote of 28–11 in the State Senate on Sept. 13.

California Family Council (CFC), a faith-based organization with a mission to promote life, family, and liberty, released a statement on Sept. 13 opposing the bill.

Greg Burt, the Director of Capitol Engagement for CFC, explained his objections to the bill. He said there is no need for the government to mandate medical abortion at student health centers, and the bill does not help students or universities; instead, it will bring great harm.

The following is my discussionwith Burt in question and answer format, which has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Question: The SB24 bill states, “Abortion care is a constitutional right and an integral part of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care.” Do you want to make any comments on this?

Greg: The Constitution does not specifically call out “abortion” as a right. However, the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision in January 1973 holds that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides a “right to privacy” that protects a pregnant woman’s right to choose whether or not to have an abortion. However, it held that this right is not absolute and must be balanced against the government’s interests in protecting women’s health and protecting prenatal life.

Notwithstanding the controversial nature of the interpreted constitutional right to abortion, government has never been obligated to provide easy access to exercise these rights. Case in point—the explicit constitutional right to bear arms according to the Second Amendment does not obligate the government to create gun shops within short distances of anyone who wants to own a gun.

Question: The bill states: “There are more than 400,000 students classified as female at California’s public university campuses. The state has an interest in ensuring that every pregnant person in California who wants to have an abortion can obtain access to that care as easily and as early in pregnancy as possible.”

According to a Guttmacher Institute estimate, the abortion rate of women from age 15 to 44 years was 1.5 percent in 2014 and substantially decreased since then. Planned Parenthood estimated 43 percent of all abortions were done via abortion pills in 2014.

Statistically speaking, the total yearly number of medical abortions would be 1,800 people across all UC and CSU campuses at the 2014 level. There are 9 UC campuses and 23 CSU campuses; that’s a potential average of 56 cases of medical abortion per campus per year or less according to the statistics.

What do you think about the bill’s statement about the number of women in the UC and CSU campuses and the interest of the government to mandate medical abortion at the university health centers?

Greg: Numerous news organizations have reported on the steady drop of abortion rates across the U.S. in the past few years. If the government uses educational resources to reduce unwanted pregnancy, provide better pregnancy help and/or childcare options, it would further reduce the need for abortion services.

This bill is favoring the abortion industry by reducing their overhead via the use of university facilities, and in effect swaying students toward the decision of abortion when they are faced with the weighty choices presented by unintended pregnancies. Many college women feel like they have no other choice. Are colleges promoting abortion more than promoting life? Many women who went through abortion are left with a deep sense of loss and regret. The trauma is real and needs to be acknowledged.

Question: The bill states: “All California public university campuses have on-campus student health centers, but none of these health centers currently provide abortion by medication techniques. Abortion by medication techniques is extremely safe, highly effective, and cost effective.”

Do you agree that medical abortion is extremely safe?

Greg: No, not at all.

The on-campus student health centers are there to provide Basic Health Services. There is a legal definition for that in42 USCS § 300e-1 [Title 42. The Public Health and Welfare; Chapter 6A. The Public Health Service; Health Maintenance Organizations]. Abortion is not listed as a Basic Health Service. On Aug. 22, 2014, the California Department of Managed Health Care declared abortion as a Basic Health Service and required that health plans sold in California must cover abortion. This caused consternation with the federal government.

Currently, the student health centers already provide referral services for women who want to undergo abortion.

The “medical abortion” is not extremely safe. According to the FDA’s “Questions and Answers on Mifeprex” updated on April 22, 2019, it states: “The FDA has received reports of serious adverse events in women who took Mifeprex. As of December 31, 2018, there were reports of 24 deaths of women associated with Mifeprex since the product was approved in September 2000, including two cases of ectopic pregnancy resulting in death; and several cases of severe systemic infection (also called sepsis), including some that were fatal.”

It further states the side effects of the medication: “Cramping and vaginal bleeding are expected effects of the treatment regimen. In some cases, very heavy vaginal bleeding will need to be stopped by a surgical procedure, which can often be performed in a healthcare provider’s office.”

The story of Abby Johnson, portrayed in the “Unplanned” movie with RU-486 abortion, validated by many women who had the same experience, should be sobering to all concerned. The cramping and bleeding were so bad Abby thought she was going to die. Women who undergo the medical abortion needing surgical backup should be able to go back to the prescribing doctor, which is a high threshold for the university clinics.

Question: The bill states: “Students seeking early pregnancy termination, especially those enrolled at institutions outside of major urban centers, face prohibitively expensive travel, often without reliable means of transportation, to a clinic that may require hours of travel from their campus, out of their city, county, or even geographic region. These financial and time burdens negatively impact academic performance and mental health.”

Do you agree with the assessment?

Greg: A largely identical bill, SB320, was passed by the California State Assembly on Aug. 30, 2018, presented to Governor Brown on Sept. 10, 2018, and vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown on Sept. 30, 2018. The veto message was: “Access to reproductive health services, including abortion, is a long-protected right in California. According to a study sponsored by supporters of this legislation, the average distance to abortion providers in campus communities varies from five to seven miles, not an unreasonable distance. Because the services required by this bill are widely available off-campus, this bill is not necessary.”

Nothing has changed since September 2018. SB24 is practically the same bill as SB320. “Five to seven miles” is not prohibitively expensive travel. The universities would be better off to provide transportation if needed, if that is their major concern.

Question: The bill states: “No General Fund moneys shall be appropriated, or otherwise provided, to support the fund.” It will not require “a public university student health center to bill public programs or health insurance providers to support the costs of providing abortion by medication techniques onsite.”

Do you know anything contrary to this assessment?

Greg: Governor Newsom’s own California Department of Finance opposes the bill based on its analysis. The following three reasons are given in the comment section of the department’s two-page analysis report:

  • The Commission does not have the technical expertise nor existing capacity to develop and administer a program of this size, scope, or content.
  • While the bill assumes private funding would be available to support grants to become prepared to offer abortion by medication techniques and develop associated back-up medical supports, this bill likely creates significant one-time and out-year General Fund cost pressures for the UC and CSU to comply with the requirements of this bill if: (1) sufficient private funding cannot be raised to support readiness grants, (2) the costs to comply with this bill’s requirements exceed the proposed grant funding, or (3) UC and CSU campuses incur ongoing costs after January 1, 2023.
  • This bill would require UC and CSU health centers to establish medical billing systems and develop medical bill expertise. The UC and CSU indicate that campus health centers primarily offer triage and preventative services that have not required the implementation of medical billing systems and development of medical bill expertise because the centers are student fee supported.

Conclusion

Governor Newsom should veto the bill as Governor Brown did before him. The bill is unnecessary, as there are already abortion facilities near the universities. It can be harmful to students with insufficient abortion care because the university health centers are not specialized. It can increase the risk of liability for the universities because the side effects of the abortion pill can be very severe.

Lastly, abortion is a difficult decision for most women to make. It is not as casual as taking aspirin, as the bill seems to imply.

There are those who believe that life starts at conception, or life starts at the first heartbeat, or life starts after birth. Science is not able to give us a clear answer as to when life starts exactly, but currently a baby’s life is already viable after 22 weeks of gestation.

With the advancement of medical science, babies can surely become viable at even earlier stages of pregnancy. Medical abortion can be prescribed up to the 12th week of pregnancy.

It is better for the decision to be made after painstaking deliberation. We should not let “convenience” be associated with such an important decision.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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