Students, alumni and advocates packed and overflowed the Associated Students Inc. Senate chambers on Wednesday to voice support or opposition for Senate Bill 24, which would require all University of California and California State Universities to provide medically induced abortions by 2023.
The resolution would allow Lobby Corps, a branch of ASI, to campaign for several bills related to students, including SB 24.
After the discussion, the bill supporting SB 24 in addition to other legislation was passed 13-2-4. This was the second of three votes needed to pass the resolution.
Before the meeting, around a dozen pro-choice demonstrators set up a table outside, carrying pro-choice signs such as “feminists fighting for reproductive justice” and “keep abortion legal.”
Emily Escobar, an alumna of Long Beach State and member of the Feminist Majority Foundation, emphasized the importance of accessible abortions, especially for low-income students.
As the meeting began, the crowd of activists filed inside. The overflow required ASI to add seating outside the gallery, a rarity for the usually sparsely attended meetings.
When the senate opened the floor to public comment, one of the first to speak was Jessy Rosales of the Women’s Foundation of California, a group that supports women’s reproductive rights.
“This bill is about access to your rights,” Rosales said. “Without access to our rights, what rights do we really have?”
The accessibility includes proximity to health services, a hurdle that is harder to jump for low-income students, she added.
“It is about implementing medication-based abortions on campus,” Rosales said. “Some folks have to travel four hours to get the care that they need.”
Rosales was followed by several pro-choice advocates who spoke on facets of the issue including ethics, income and accessibility.
Abortion rights supporter Alejandra Gonzalez asserted that abortion rights are of the utmost importance for women who miscarry.
“[People who have miscarriages] have to go through such layers of bureaucracy to get their dead child out of their body,” she said. “It should be considered horrendous, it should be considered oppression.”
There were a few pro-life supporters in attendance, including Michael Constable, a senior accounting major.
“I am a Christian and I believe that this is murder,” Constable said. He then asked the senate to “think about the blood on [their] hands.”
Outside of the meeting, Constable clarified his positions on abortion.
“People think Christians are staunchly against people getting abortion,” Constable said.
He explained that he was supportive of abortion techniques being used to remove a stillborn fetus. However, he did not support abortion in the cases of incest or rape.
“Should we punish the child for someone’s disgusting act?” he asked. “If a mother has a baby and chooses to keep the baby even if the father chooses to rape her, that’s brave.”
Following public comment, Sen. Michelle Fukuda spoke in favor of the bill and emphasized that abortion is a personal choice.
“There are people who are for and against vaccinations, but it doesn’t mean that us as a school are for or against it,” Fukuda said. “There was controversy on providing birth control … for people who don’t want to use it they don’t have to use it.”
Sen. Robert Martinez, however, had his reservations about the bill, and said that it may not represent all students’ viewpoints.
“I’m having a really hard time of this, regardless of my personal views,” he said.
Following the affirmative vote, Constable approached the microphone looking crestfallen.
He urged the senate to do their research and called fetuses “the most defenseless people in this nation.”
Rosales voiced her support for the bill.
“This bill is again, about access,” said Rosales, citing the bill’s importance. “[It’s] part of having holistic reproductive healthcare.”
ASI meetings take place at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesdays. The final vote on the senate resolution,including SB 24, will be Wednesday, Feb. 27.