Gov. Gavin Newsom may soon find himself in a bit of a pickle. Turns out the governor’s chief fiscal adviser, the California Department of Finance, is staunchly opposed to Senate Bill 24, the bill that will require all of California’s university student health centers to provide on-campus medical abortions. It’s the same bill Newsom promised on the campaign trail he would sign, no questions asked.
The DOF asked plenty of questions and the answers add up to a scathing assessment of the bill, the “significant” cost of which will prove unduly burdensome for students, universities and taxpayers. Not to be deterred by pesky facts, the Democratic majority on the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Friday passed the bill through to the Assembly floor, the bill’s last stop before the governor’s desk.
SB 24 will require all UC and CSU student health centers to provide abortion pills to students by January 2023. The bill would also create a fund administered by the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls to provide a $200,000 grant to each student health center for abortion readiness upgrades and associated medical supports. It was the commission that earned the DOF’s most stinging rebuke.
“The Commission does not have the technical expertise nor existing capacity to develop and administer a program of this size, scope, or content,” according to the report.
That’s just for starters. Despite an assumption by the bill’s authors that private funding will be available to support the program, the analysis found it’s more likely the measure will “create significant General Fund cost pressures” on the universities if the fund lacks enough money to cover costs after January 2023, an eventuality university officials regard as highly probable.
Finally, the report noted the bill will require student health centers to “establish medical billing systems and develop medical bill expertise,” a foreign concept at the centers, which are supported by student fees. Student health centers primarily offer triage and preventive services that don’t require medical billing, but by all means let’s foist that nightmare onto our colleges despite the fact that students seeking abortions already receive referrals to nearby community providers.
The DOF report validates what the bill’s opponents have been shouting from the rooftops since Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, introduced her first campus abortion bill nearly three years ago: It forces onto the universities increased costs and liability and will likely have to be funded by tax dollars and a rise in student fees. Add in the close campus-to-provider proximity and the only rational conclusion is that the measure is not only unnecessary, it’s nuts.
UC and CSU officials will not oppose any pro-choice legislation for fear it might upset the delicate balance between universities’ constitutionally ordained autonomy and our legislature’s insatiable need to govern every aspect of our daily lives. The universities instead took a “position of concern” for nearly three years, during which they’ve repeatedly pledged to “work with the author” in hopes of finding some relief from the mandate, but the abortion-obsessed Leyva isn’t playing along.
California’s governors are duty-bound to consider DOF recommendations, as Gov. Jerry Brown surely did last year when he vetoed Leyva’s substantially similar SB 320. It remains to be seen what Newsom will do if SB 24 ends up on his desk. Will he heed the objective advice of his fiscal advisers? Consider university concerns? Or will he do what we’ve come to expect from our elected officials in Sacramento and dismiss serious liability and cost issues just to check an ideological box?
Let’s help him decide. Call Gov. Newsom today at 916-445-2841 and urge him to veto SB 24.
Marylee Shrider is executive director of Right to Life of Kern County