A bill that would require all California public universities to provide medication-based abortion to college students may soon become law, but pro-life groups claim that the bill’s supporters are misleading students about the safety of procedure.
The bill, SB 320, would allow any public university student to request abortion medication at their student health center. The medication is not “Plan B” or “the morning after pill,” but rather, two medications taken together to terminate a pregnancy.
The first drug, mifepristone, is taken at the doctor’s office and blocks progesterone, a hormone that is necessary to maintain a pregnancy. This causes this uterine lining to break down and cuts the baby’s nourishment supply off. The baby dies in the womb.
The second drug, mifepristone, is taken at home 24 to 48 hours later — or if SB 320 is passed, alone in a dorm room — and induces cramps to expel the baby. Heavy bleeding, fever, and dizziness are common side effects, but not the only ones.
A fact sheet produced to promote the bill claims that medication abortion is “safer than Tylenol or Viagra,” and says that the procedure has a “success rate of over 97% and serious adverse events exist in only 0.3% of medication abortions.”
However, critics of the bill I’ve spoken with worry that the bill could cause unintended health consequences. Unlike surgical abortion, which is always done under medical supervision, supervision is not indicated for students choosing medical abortion.
While SB 320 supporters tout this feature, suggesting the pills are preferable because it can be done in the “privacy of the home,” it also means that college students who choose medical abortion could suffer severe complications, with no-one around to call for help.
Dr. Donna Harrison, the executive director of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, expressed worry that students as young as 18 are being misled about the potential side-effects of the procedure.
“To say that medical abortion is as safe as Tylenol is a flat out lie,” Harrison told PJ Media by email on Monday.
“Medical abortion has four times greater risks of major complications than surgical abortion, including major hemorrhage, and tissue left inside. Medical abortion takes on average 8-16 days of bleeding, and the pain can be excruciating,” explained Harrison.
“To deceive women in this way, for the sake of financial profit, is despicable. Full informed consent requires honesty about the full risks of a procedure. That is not what the women of California are getting,” she added.
According to a study published last month, abortions send more than 5,500 women annually to the emergency room in the United States, with more than 20 percent of women suffering serious, life-threatening consequences.
While that study doesn’t differentiate between the two types of abortion, a previous Finnish study found that medication abortion results in a “four-fold” chance of major complications, including septic-shock from fetal tissue that wasn’t entirely expelled.
Matt Lamb is the communications director for Students for Life, a nonprofit that runs conferences and trainings for pro-life college students. His organization has collected more than 4,000 signatures to fight SB 320, and Lamb also has his concerns about the bill.
According to the fact sheet, supporters of SB 320 claim that one of the key reasons California public universities should dispense abortion pills is that students often lack transportation to off-campus abortion clinics.
By mandating that colleges provide abortion pills, supports of the bill say that it would help boost abortion access to students who don’t have cars. Unfortunately, for students with transportation concerns, what happens if they need to get to a hospital?
“The directions for dispensing [the abortion pills] say that one possible consequence is surgical intervention, so prescribers should be able to assist immediately patients in reaching a place that can surgically intervene,” he told PJ Media on Tuesday.
“Since university health centers are also not equipped to do so, that means that the students will have to get there on their own. But, this would seem to run into issues, if they are having transportation issues,” Lamb added.
The bill was introduced by Senator Connie Leyva (D-Ca) at the request of college students from UC-Berkeley. Her office did not respond to multiple requests for comment from PJ Media, nor did Just Care California, the lobbying group that created the fact sheet for SB 320.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen.