Lawmakers ride bus to promote bill allowing access to medical abortion on campus

NORTHAMPTON – Three state officials and students took public buses across the state on Monday in support of a bill to make medical abortions available at public universities in Massachusetts.

“The best way to explain to people that this is serious,” said Representative Lindsay Sabadosa, is to “really point out the distances” that students currently have to travel to find abortion resources.

Since many students do not have a car on campus, she explained, these round-trip bus trips can take hours and cause students to miss classes.

Sabadosa, D-Northampton, said his ride from UMass Amherst to Planned Parenthood in Springfield required him to change buses twice, a change requiring almost an hour of waiting due to a missed stop. In total, his round trip took almost five hours.

Representatives Jack Lewis and Maria Robinson traveled by bus from Framingham State University to Women’s Health Services in Brookline. This trip alone took them over three hours, suggesting a round trip lasting twice as long.

“It is not tenable for students to have to travel so long,” said Rebecca Hart Holder, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, an advocacy group that helped coordinate Monday’s event. .

“Most students rely on their campus health center,” she said. Therefore, she said, it makes sense for medical abortion care to be more accessible to students directly on campus.

That’s the goal of Bill H2399 / S1470, a piece of legislation inspired by a similar California bill that Sabadosa updated for Massachusetts.

If passed, the bill would create a fund to provide public universities with money to cover costs associated with facility upgrades, security upgrades, and the cost of equipment and services. training of personnel related to medical abortions.

Sabadosa explained that a medical abortion is a non-invasive procedure that involves taking two pills and is “extremely effective” and “extremely safe”.

Shannon Craig, a senior from UMass Amherst currently interning at Sabadosa, said the bill “would make all the difference”.

Craig said she knew many students on campus who had previously had abortions and encountered “tiresome obstacles that could certainly be avoided,” such as long bus trips.

Additionally, she said, “there is a lot of stigma around medical abortions,” and she hopes the use of campus health services will increase the privacy and protection of abortion seekers.

Hart Holder brought up the Dobbs abortion rights case against Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which the U.S. Supreme Court is due to hear on December 1 of this year.

“We see a deep threat to reproductive freedom at the national level,” she said, stressing the importance of this state legislation.

Sabadosa, along with other lawmakers, announced that a virtual hearing was scheduled for Tuesday for the Medicare for All bill titled “A Law to Establish Medicare for All in Massachusetts,” which will be heard by the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing.

“The pandemic has made it clear that even though we spend a lot on health care, it does not translate into good health,” Sabadosa said.

Insisting that more substantial change is needed, she said, “I think we’re kind of chomping on this problem in Massachusetts. Medicare for All cuts red tape, cuts out middlemen, and allows us to invest in the social determinants of health.

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