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Bill Would Require Access To Medication

Debate is likely to be heavy on state Assembly legislation to mandate availability of medication for abortion at State University of New York health centers.

Assemblyman Harvey Epstein, D-New York City, has proposed A.8743 to amend state law to require the State University of New York to provide abortion by medication techniques at all public universities within the state.

Epstein wrote the so-called morning after pill is typically available at SUNY health centers, while medication abortion is reportedly safer and less-invasive than the morning after pill. He cited data from the Guttmacher Institute which states 39% of counties in New York state are without a known clinic.

“College students’ often busy schedules, lack of transportation options, and low-incomes present barriers to accessing abortion healthcare,” Epstein wrote in his legislative justification. “Students who want to end an unintended pregnancy have to travel to off-campus providers, potentially missing classes and disrupting their studies.”

The legislation has three main parts. It amends Article 5, Title 1 of the state Education Law to add a new section titled Medical and Health Services to make it state law that student health centers at public colleges make abortion medication techniques available on each site and create a reporting requirement to track outcomes.

Section 2 amends the state Finance Law to add a new section establishing a Public Colleges Student Health Center Abortion By Medication Fund under the joint custody of the state Comptroller, Health Commissioner and SUNY chancellor to which taxpayers can voluntarily contribute. Money from the fund would be made available to pay costs associated with providing abortions at student health centers. The third section adds a new section to the state Tax Law to make a contribution to the Public Colleges Student Health Center Abortion By Medication Fund on their tax returns starting January 2020.

The legislation has been referred to the Assembly’s Higher Education Committee. Companion legislation has not yet been introduced in the state Senate.

According to the Los Angeles Times, a similar bill was signed recently by California Gov. Gavin Newsom and goes into effect in 2023. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health estimated that 322 to 519 students at California’s public universities seek medical abortions each month. The average cost of a medical abortion was $604 and 62% of students were more than 30 minutes away from the closest abortion facility when using public transportation.

A similar measure had been vetoed by former California Gov. Jerry Brown because the legislation wasn’t necessary. Brown reasoned that abortion services were widely available to students at off-campus clinics. The measure was then passed after Brown left office.

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