Story at a glance
- Barnard College, a private women’s college of Columbia University, will start offering medication abortion to its students by fall 2023.
- The college said the decision was prompted after the U.S. Supreme Court in June eliminated the constitutional right to legal abortion, under the former Roe v. Wade ruling.
- The college also noted that eliminating the constitutional right to abortion will likely decrease college accessibility, result in lower graduation rates, and derail employment trajectories.
Barnard College, a private women’s college of Columbia University, announced it would be expanding its health care options for students to include medication abortion.
After the U.S. Supreme Court decided in June to eliminate the constitutional right to legal abortion, the college decided to double down on its commitment to students’ health and well-being, while also noting the risks that overturning Roe v. Wade carries.
In a statement published Thursday, Barnard said it intends to offer medication abortion to its students, after ensuring campus health care providers are prepared and trained by fall 2023.
Medication abortion consists of two pills, known as mifepristone and misoprostol. The drugs in combination are used to end a pregnancy and were approved for use in the U.S. by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2000.
Medication abortion quickly became popular, with the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights advocacy and research group, finding it accounted for 54 percent of U.S. abortions in 2020.
Barnard explained that introducing medication abortion on campus is one way Barnard hopes to apply its reproductive justice and gender-affirming framework to all of its student health and well-being services. The college also noted that the home state of its campus, New York, still maintains open access to abortion up to and including 24 weeks of pregnancy.
Even after 24 weeks, a person can still get an abortion in New York if the pregnancy is considered at risk. Abortion access is open to those coming from outside of New York and includes medication abortion and in-clinic abortion.
Marina Catallozzi, vice president of health and wellness and chief health officer at Barnard, highlighted that eliminating the constitutional right to abortion, “will likely decrease college accessibility, result in lower graduation rates, and derail employment trajectories.”
“It is expected that people of color and those with limited incomes will be disproportionately harmed.”
Research by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) revealed that 59 percent of pregnancies among 20 to 24 year olds were unintended in 2011, with young women of color and women with low incomes having higher rates of unintended pregnancy than white and higher-income women.
The 2018 Turnaway Study also found that because many women are already experiencing economic hardships at the time they seek an abortion, if they are denied one, they are three times more likely of being unemployed than women who are able to access an abortion.
Barnard will join University of California and California State University in offering medication abortion to their students, thanks to a California bill, known as the College Student Right to Access Act, that will require the two colleges to offer non-surgical medication abortions for students by January 2023. Over 6,000 students could potentially use the service.
The University of California San Francisco estimated that 36 percent of abortions in the U.S. are performed at nonspecialized clinics and student health centers located on college campuses represent another primary care site where abortion care could be offered.