As members of End Fake Clinics, an organization at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) dedicated to resisting the stigmatization of abortion and institutions that support it, we were already activists motivated by reproductive justice issues.
End Fake Clinics has discussed the possibility of getting an abortion provider on our campus, and phone conversations with Student Health employees at various UCs regarding their local abortion availability inspired our current project. While we were already fairly certain that other UCs did not have abortion providers on-campus, the conversations confirmed that all of the universities refer out to Planned Parenthood or other clinics in the community. The distance from some UC campuses to their closest referred clinic was particularly troubling. Students at UC Davis, for example, are referred to clinics 20 miles away, while those at UC Merced must travel 50 miles to the nearest facility.
According to the “Find a Health Center” tab on the Planned Parenthood website, the closest abortion provider to the UCSB campus is 8.31 miles away in downtown Santa Barbara. The distance seemed rather manageable and reasonable to us, but during a meeting with one of the directors of our Student Health Center we learned that Planned Parenthood of Santa Barbara only provides first trimester abortions. UCSB students seeking abortions after the twelve-week mark (about 20 per year) are referred to clinics in Los Angeles or Bakersfield, California– approximately 100 and 160 miles away, respectively. While these distances may not seem particularly burdensome, especially considering the obstacles people face in states with harsher abortion laws, we are bothered that students seeking abortions are left with referrals and no provided transportation. This left us with a bigger question: how might the focus of reproductive rights groups on “a woman’s right to choose” obscure the very real problem of access?