Following the tumultuous social events of summer 2017, San Jose State University President Mary A. Papazian sought to reassure San Jose State students during her opening semester address stating, “As a civilized, caring community, we condemn this outrageous, indefensible behavior while affirming our commitment to inclusion, diversity, equity, and respect for individual differences.” A new law being considered at this very moment in our state capital challenges the spirit of Pres Papazian’s call for “respect for individual differences.” This law, Senate Bill 320 or SB 320, would require on-campus student health insurance plans offered by California State University, the California Community Colleges and the University of California to include coverage of the abortion pill, which can be taken up to 10 weeks after a woman’s last period. And without additional safeguards for conscience, SB 320 may one day require all SJSU students, including pro-lifers, to directly fund chemical abortions. The bill will also turn our collectively used Student Health Center into an on-campus abortion center.
This law is deeply offensive to the conscience rights of many SJSU students and is bad policy for the women and community of SJSU. A 2016 poll “found that 53 percent of college aged Americans believe abortion should be illegal in at least most circumstances… That is up 9 percentage points from a 2012 survey conducted by Students for Life, which found 44 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds tended to back pro-life policies and 44 percent pro-choice policies.” These gains in pro-life support come even as these same young voters are overwhelmingly liberal on social issues such as same-sex marriage and drug legalization. Assuming SJSU is representative of college age opposition to abortion, over 15,000 pro-life SJSU students may be forced to fund abortions on campus through required student fees. Abortion advocates constantly argue that abortion is a decision between a woman and her doctor. Why, then, should the law require the student body to become involved?
|San Jose State University students protest SB 320|
Some supporters of SB 320 contend that these concerns are unwarranted because amended language in SB 320 states that “private moneys” will fund the program. Pro-life students have several issues with this. First, the original language of SB 320 did not include any such provision; the “private moneys” amendments were only added after political pressure from pro-life activists. Second, even this particular language of the bill does not provide for permanent conscience protections. The exact language states: “Nothing in this chapter shall be interpreted as requiring public universities to support implementation of abortion by medication techniques with General Fund appropriations or student fees” (emphasis mine). Therefore, nothing in SB 320 guarantees protection of student fees from forthcoming additions to SB 320 which may alter the funding mechanism, or from overzealous pro-abortion university administrators who wish to divert student fees toward the SB 320 program. Lastly, pro-life students contend that student fee funding for the student health centers is inseparable from the provision of the implementation of SB 320. The overarching infrastructure and employees that will be used to distribute the abortion medication is paid for by student fees, regardless if the medication itself is privately funded or not. Money is fungible and therefore student fees can still be used even indirectly in the implementation of SB 320.
Bills such as SB 320 directly and intentionally circumvent federal conscience protections against the funding of abortion and invent out of whole cloth a positive right to state- or university-funded abortions. The Supreme Court has twice ruled in favor of taxpayer conscience protections like the Hyde Amendment, ruling in favor of the constitutionality of restricting public funding for abortions. In the 1979 case Maher v. Roe, the Court ruled that Roe v. Wade does not establish a woman’s right to a free abortion, holding that Roe v. Wade “did not declare an unqualified ‘constitutional right to an abortion’” and “implies no limitation on the authority of a State to make a value judgment favoring childbirth over abortion, and to implement that judgment by the allocation of public funds.” The court reiterated that position the following year in Harris v McRae, stating: “The funding restrictions of the Hyde Amendment do not impinge on the ‘liberty’ protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment held in Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 168, to include the freedom of a woman to decide whether to terminate a pregnancy.”
In essence the Court ruled that “regardless of whether the freedom of a woman to choose to terminate her pregnancy for health reasons lies at the core or the periphery of the due process liberty recognized in Roe v. Wade, it does not follow that a woman’s freedom of choice carries with it a constitutional entitlement to the financial resources to avail herself of the full range of protected choices.”
Despite the Hyde Amendment protections and the aforementioned judicial rulings, 17 states including California use taxpayer funds to fund abortion. According to a September 2016 report, California’s Medicaid program (Medi-Cal) spent more than $27 million on more than 83,000 induced abortions in 2014. According to California’s Department of Health and Human Services, Medi-Cal provides abortions “regardless of the gestational age of the fetus” and, furthermore, “medical justification and authorization” are “not required.”
The move toward bills such as SB 320, which lack strict explicitly articulated conscience rights of students, is the latest attempt to circumvent the Hyde Amendment’s conscience protections and is yet another indicator that the abortion lobby is moving away from their slogan of “safe, legal, and rare,” to a policy of “any time, for any reason, at no cost.” We at Spartans for Life believe abortion is never void of costs. Abortion is an act of violence which costs a child a lifetime of potential, costs a mother and father the joys of parenthood, and costs our campus community a proper respect for life.
SB 320 offers no choice for a campus pro-life community and no real choice for our pregnant students. SB 320 offers a choice between choosing between one’s education and one’s child. This is not “choice,” this is not “empowering,” this is not “feminist,” and this is certainly not “respecting our differences.” We at Spartans for Life believe California can do better. We believe that women can do anything they set their minds to. We believe all student fees would be better served aiding our pregnant Spartans in being both mothers and students. We believe this policy represents real choice for all our students. As such, we respectfully ask our campus community to make their voices heard and vocally oppose SB 320’s implementation across our state.
[Today’s guest post is by Nick Reynosa. He is a student at San Jose State.]