Early Monday morning in Amherst, State Representative Lindsay Sabadosa boarded the B43 bus at the University of Massachusetts, joined by a small cohort of students advocating for medical abortion to be integrated into health care already offered in university health centers.
The said “Repro Ride” at Planned Parenthood in Springfield took two and a half hours.
The trip went smoothly, Sabadosa told MassLive on Monday afternoon, despite the group’s difficulties navigating to the initial bus stop, traffic entering Northampton, a missed bus transfer and protesters outside the clinic. But for a student who has never relied on public transport and needs immediate help, the experience can be overwhelming and emotionally draining, Sabadosa said.
While Sabadosa was traveling in western Massachusetts, the state Representatives Jack Lewis and Maria Robinson took a separate Repro Ride from Framingham State University to Women’s Health Services at Brookline.
“It’s funny because you’re having a good time,” Sabadosa said of his conversations with students at UMass Amherst and Smith College. “If I was stressed out about a medical appointment it would just be a disaster … To me, it really underscored that this is part of health care that we still make it somewhat hard to come by.”
Sabadosa is the main sponsor of a bill that would require Massachusetts public universities to offer medical abortions at student health centers – and refer people to abortion care services not available at those centers.
She estimates that the bill could help between 300 and 400 students who live in “access deserts” across the state.
The bill, according to Sabadosa, applies to two “abortion pills” that can be taken up to 10 weeks pregnant, according to Food and Drug Administration approval. It’s not the same medicine as the Plan B pill, Sabadosa pointed out, which must be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex.
For now, some Massachusetts students have to spend hours on public transportation – just as state lawmakers demonstrated on Monday – to access the reproductive health care they need.
“Students face a variety of financial, professional and academic pressures every day; for many, the added burden of unwanted pregnancy or other reproductive health issues can extraordinarily disrupt future plans, aspirations and opportunities, ”said Senator Jason Lewis, the bill’s main sponsor in the Senate, in a press release. “Every Massachusetts resident should be able to seek timely and accessible reproductive health care, including students enrolled in our public colleges and universities. “
Massachusetts Maritime Academy students face a 13-hour drive to the nearest abortion provider, according to an advocacy website on the state’s proposed legislation.
Students at UMass Dartmouth could end up riding public transport for six hours, followed by students at Bridgewater State University at five and a half, according to the website.
“It is unacceptable that students face such incredible barriers to accessing abortion care in a state that prides itself on world-class health care,” said Rebecca Hart Holder, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, in a statement. “Medical abortion accounts for forty percent of all abortion care in Massachusetts. Clinicians working in campus health care are more than qualified to provide this care, so there really is no reason why college students cannot access on-campus care.