The California state legislature is in the process of passing a bill that will require every state college and university to allow students to obtain medication abortion from their campus health centers. This expansion is expected to dramatically increase the ability for college students to obtain timely abortion services by eliminating barriers like cost, travel and scheduling issues. But while the plan would be a major victory in a state like California, it would have an even bigger impact on a low access, rural state like Alabama – and it’s something we should consider fighting for.
With over three dozen public colleges and universities in Alabama housing more than 100,000 students, the college crowd often exists in an isolated bubble that consists of their classroom, housing, sports stadiums and favorite local bars. If they can’t find it on campus, it’s likely they won’t trek out to get it – and that goes for health care, too. Students are far more likely to use an on campus health center for any medical need – from flu shots to antibiotics to – yes, contraception, too. And with only three cities in the state that even offer abortion services – Tuscaloosa, Montgomery and Huntsville, many students who are pregnant and don’t want to be would have to find a way not only to get off campus but to travel to another city to get a termination. Having the student health center offer medication abortion would ease that burden for students, just as it is expected to do in California once the law is in effect.
It would even help students that are in the cities with clinics, too. Getting into a clinic – especially with the state’s medically unnecessary 48 hour waiting period in effect – means multiple appointments that may be impossible to schedule around classes, work studies, internships and other obligations.
According to the Alabama Department of Health approximately one in three pregnant people seeking abortions in the state are college-aged, making medication abortion at student health centers a no-brainer when it comes to expanding access. Of course, this is Alabama, where getting even birth control or emergency contraception on campus can be hit or miss, and family housing for those who want to parent is nearly impossible to find. Abortion? Probably not likely anytime soon. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t start advocating for it anyway.
Meanwhile, it’s imperative we get EC out to students to have on hand – before an emergency might hit – knowing that it is most effective the earlier it is taken and that leaving campus may be impossible and getting it on campus almost as hard (especially if it is a weekend and the health center is closed, or a person is trying to get it in secret to protect their privacy). If you need EC or know someone who might, be sure to contact us now to be prepared.