Medication abortions coming to a college near you, but not to the 5Cs

A distressed person with a void symbol and "???" above their head.
As private institutions, the Claremont Colleges are not required to provide students with access to medication abortion, like public California universities will soon be required to do, nor do they plan to do so of their own accord. (Katherine Tan • The Student Life)

When the new year rolls around, all public universities will be required to provide on-campus access to abortion pills owing to a state mandate, but the Claremont Colleges have no intention to follow suit.

In January, the California Senate Bill 24, also known as the College Student Right to Access Act, will take effect across UC and CSU campuses. Signed by Governor Gavin Newsom on Oct. 11, 2019, the bill will require student health services at public California universities to provide on-campus access to abortion pills.

However, TCCS Assistant Vice President of Communications Laura Muna Landa told TSL that the 7Cs do not plan to implement the same changes.

“As a consortium of private colleges and universities, The Claremont Colleges are not mandated by state law to offer on-campus medication abortion access,” Muna Landa said. “The Student Deans Committee, which has oversight for cross-institutional policies, has not recommended a policy or practice change.”

California is the first state in the country to take this step.

“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,” the bill states. “When pregnant young people decide that abortion is the best option for them, having early, accessible care can help them stay on track to achieve their educational and other aspirational life plans.”

In a medication abortion, two prescription pills are taken several hours apart to induce a miscarriage during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. Abortion pills differ from morning-after pills such as Plan B, which prevents pregnancy by delaying or stopping the release of an egg.

“As other states and the federal government go backward, restricting reproductive freedom, in California we are moving forward, expanding access and reaffirming a woman’s right [to] choose,” Newsom said in a 2019 statement announcing the legislation. “We’re removing barriers to reproductive health — increasing access on college campuses.”

Accessibility seems to be the main factor driving the changes. 

According to Carolyn O’Keefe, Director of Student Wellness & Basic Needs at the CSU Chancellor’s Office, health appointments at CSU campuses will be covered by student fees during the school year, with an additional $50 fee per student for the medication. At UC campuses, the pills will be covered by required student insurance plans. 

Off-campus, medicated abortions often cost up to $800, according to Planned Parenthood.

At the Claremont Colleges, SHS refers students seeking abortion services to outside clinics, although these aren’t completely covered by student insurance. 

“Medication abortions provided through an outpatient facility are covered at 80 percent at in-network facilities,” Muna-Landa told TSL.

The time and monetary cost of finding and traveling to off-campus abortion sites is often difficult for college students, according to Lily Dunkin SC ’24, one of the founders and organizers of the 5C Reproductive Justice Club. 

“At its core, abortion access is fundamentally an issue of equity and control,” Dunkin said. “In the case of the Claremont Colleges, when you have a large portion of the population that is able to get pregnant, for those students to have to travel upwards of 40 minutes on public transit to the nearest abortion clinic that may not even be covered by their insurance is a really inexcusable burden.”

Dunkin’s reasoning echoes that of the Senate Bill. 

“Students seeking early pregnancy termination … face prohibitively expensive travel, often without reliable means of transportation, to a clinic that may require hours of travel from their campus … These financial and time burdens negatively impact academic performance and mental health,” the bill says.

Considering the benefits of offering access to this resource, Ella Prigge PO ’25 said she is disappointed that SHS does not plan to follow the mandate. 

“Not only would access to abortion pills at SHS increase bodily autonomy and limit barriers to reproductive healthcare for students, but it would also show administration’s commitment to the health of and care for the student body,” Prigge said. “It could be an opportunity for the 5Cs to step up as private colleges — paving the way for other private CA schools to consider providing access to the pills as well.”

Despite the 5Cs’ decision to not pursue on-campus access to abortion pills, the number of reproductive healthcare offerings at the 5Cs are increasing. 

SHS offers PAP smears, STI screening testing, STI diagnostic testing, pregnancy testing, safe sex counseling, HIV PrEP, HIV PEP and emergency contraception. 

Additionally, Scripps Associated Students recently approved funding for a wellness vending machine in the Scripps Student Union. The vending machine will sell Plan B, menstrual cups, pregnancy tests, lubrication and other wellness products. 

Until that machine is implemented, the only wellness vending machine at the 5Cs is in Walker Lounge’s second floor Wellness Room at Pomona College.

Although Dunkin feels optimistic about the future of reproductive healthcare at the 5Cs, she hopes the colleges will follow public schools in increasing access to medicated abortions.

“Access liberates and empowers!” Dunkin said. “That’s why I couldn’t be more excited about the emergency contraceptive vending machine and why I hope that Claremont Colleges will use UC and CSU as a template, not because it is ‘mandated’ but because providing cheap medical abortion access to students is the right thing to do.”

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