Several Massachusetts lawmakers are advocating for the abortion pill to be dispensed on state college campuses. State Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa is the lead sponsor of a bill that would require student health centers to give students abortion pills on-demand at public universities, and those that don’t would be required to make referrals.
Sabadosa and state Reps. Jack Lewis and Maria Robinson each took a “Repro Ride” from state universities to abortion facilities to allegedly show how difficult it is for a student to get an abortion. Groups of students went with them. For Sabadosa, her trip took over two hours, riding three buses. “It’s funny because you’re having a nice time,” Sabadosa told MassLive. “If I were stressed about a medical appointment, this would just be a disaster… For me, it really emphasized that this is a part of health care that we do still make somewhat difficult to obtain.”
Starting off #ReproRideMA with one big difficulty: which side of the street does the B43 pick up at @UMassAmherst? One app downloaded and several students asked. We are at the right stop (we hope!). pic.twitter.com/3qlL0wNJ1X
— Lindsay Sabadosa (@SabadosaMA) October 25, 2021
Meanwhile, state Sen. Jason Lewis is the lead sponsor of the bill in the Senate. “College students face a variety of financial, professional, and academic pressures every day; for many, the added burden of an unintended pregnancy or other reproductive health challenges can pose an extraordinary disruption to future plans, aspirations, and opportunities,” he said in a statement. “Every Massachusetts resident should be able to seek timely and accessible reproductive healthcare, including students enrolled in our public colleges and universities.”
NARAL Pro-Choice America enthusiastically supports the bill as well.
“It is unacceptable that students would face such incredible hurdles to access abortion care in a state that prides itself on world class healthcare,” Rebecca Hart Holder, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, said in a statement. “Medication abortion accounts for forty percent of all abortion care in Massachusetts. Clinicians working in campus health care are more than qualified to dispense this care, so there’s really no reason why college students shouldn’t be able to access care on campus.”
Yet no one seems concerned about what this will put college students through when they experience an abortion by themselves, nor does anyone seem to be advocating for better opportunities or support for college students who choose to parent.
To begin with, bills such as these are misogynistic in nature, because rather than address the underlying reasons why women feel forced into an abortion, they merely keep the status quo. Pregnant students frequently feel that they have no other option but abortion, as college campuses typically are not accommodating towards pregnant and parenting students. Because of this hostility, women can easily see an unexpected pregnancy as a barrier to a stable future, forced to choose between their education and their children. Little is done to help women achieve both.
Furthermore, the abortion pill is not as safe as advocates make it seem. There are many possible adverse side effects, including the deaths of at least 24 women, according to the FDA.* Deaths from the abortion pill are typically from undiagnosed ectopic pregnancies, or the woman being further along in her pregnancy than she realized.
The risks associated with abortion pills are exactly why this would be potentially dangerous for women. Student health centers on college campuses aren’t likely to be equipped with ultrasound machines to rule out an extra-uterine pregnancy, or ensure that the woman isn’t past 10 weeks pregnant. It’s also unlikely that an OB/GYN will be present to examine each student and rule out any potential contraindications. Instead, women will likely be handed pills upon request and then sent on their way, where they will suffer alone in their dorm room. This would almost certainly violate the Food and Drug Administration’s REMS safeguards put in place for the abortion pill, which have been suspended for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, and which the Biden-Harris administration is seeking to eliminate despite the additional risks to women.
Even women who don’t experience adverse events still have to contend with the expected side effects: extremely heavy bleeding, painful and debilitating menstrual cramps, and nausea. Many women have discussed how traumatic the experience was for them, calling it “emotionally scarring” and extremely painful.
But suggesting that women on campus should go through all of this in their dorm rooms without medical supervision isn’t pro-woman. It is pro-abortion, and doesn’t protect anyone or provide true health care.
*Editor’s Note: The FDA has received reports of serious adverse events in women who took Mifeprex. As of December 31, 2018, there were reports of 24 deaths of women associated with Mifeprex since the product was approved in September 2000, including two cases of ectopic pregnancy resulting in death; and several cases of severe systemic infection (also called sepsis), including some that were fatal.
The adverse events cannot with certainty be causally attributed to mifepristone because of concurrent use of other drugs, other medical or surgical treatments, co-existing medical conditions, and information gaps about patient health status and clinical management of the patient. A summary report of adverse events that reflects data through December 31, 2018 is here.
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