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UC Berkeley student petition demands campus give out abortion pills

UC Berkeley students this month launched a petition demanding the public university dole out abortion pills that generate “medical abortions,” saying it costs too much and takes too long to get the drugs at nearby clinics.

Activist students argue the university should provide abortion pills under Berkeley’s Student Health Insurance Plan, and they also want the drugs provided at the on-campus health center, which they say is already staffed with professionals trained in administering the drug.

As it stands, students must pay clinics near the campus roughly $500 for the abortion pills, and the clinics require multiple visits over the course of the procedure, what student petition launchers called “time-consuming and expensive.”

The petition comes on the heels of two recent student government resolutions that called for abortion pills be doled out on campus. A staff editorial published last week by the Daily Californian campus newspaper also supported the effort, calling the drugs an “important health service.”

The abortion pill, formally called RU-486, is a misnomer for a combination of drugs that essentially produces a miscarriage in pregnant women. Women often experience heavy bleeding, nausea and strong abdominal pain as they expel the fetus over the course of several days. The drugs may be given during the first 10 weeks of a women’s pregnancy.

Berkeley students calling for the abortions pills argue it’s safe, and can even give women a feeling of empowerment “by having control over the process,” according to an April 1 op-ed in the Daily Californian by the directors of Students United for Reproductive Justice at Berkeley, the group largely pushing the petition.

RELATED: University of Michigan Exhibit Celebrates Abortion as ‘Life-Sustaining Act’

The petition comes on the heels of a recently approved undergrad student government resolution also calling on campus administrators to offer abortion pills at the on-campus health center.

“When medication abortion is not available at [University Health Services], students who are seeking an abortion face financial, time, and travel constraint burdens that create negative impacts on academic performance and mental health,” states the resolution, approved in March by the student government. “Abortion is a common health-care service and access to abortion is necessary and relevant in student life.”

The graduate student government passed a similar resolution, the Daily Californian reports.

UC Berkeley student groups backing the effort declined to comment to The College Fix, including questions on where funding would come to pay for the expensive drugs, and how much students would be charged, if anything. Some reports have suggested student leaders want the pills given out for free, and administrators should take a pay cut to fund them.

This year, undergrads enrolled in the university’s comprehensive Student Health Insurance Plan, or SHIP, paid $1,290 per semester for the insurance.

“Because [University Health Services] does not offer abortion services, students with SHIP have to pay the $300 deductible and 10 percent of the overall cost for an out-of-house procedure,” the petition launchers state of obtaining abortion pills at nearby clinics. They also bemoaned the fact that students attend an appointment that tells them of all their options.

As for whether campus officials will budge on the matter, a statement to The College Fix indicates they may not.

“It’s important to distinguish that the resolution doesn’t mean any action takes place,” says Berkeley’s UHS Communications Manager Kim Jarboe in an email to the The College Fix.

“University Health Services completely supports women’s access to the full spectrum of contraception, emergency contraception, abortion or other pregnancy alternatives. Fortunately, the Berkeley campus is well surrounded by a network of high-quality individual providers and community clinics who can provide these services expeditiously,” she said.

The Students for Life club at Berkeley, meanwhile, has balked at the campus movement.

“The student government at Berkeley exemplifies the lack of support and empowerment of women that is rampant throughout the abortion rights movement,” their statement said. “… We are willing and ready to support these students facing unplanned pregnancies so that they aren’t forced to choose between their child and their education.”

RELATED: Author of college biology textbook says ’emotions’ determine when human life begins

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About the Author
Michael McGrady --University of Colorado, Colorado Springs.