CUNY and SUNY students could soon be guaranteed on-campus access to abortion pill, after New York Assembly passes legislation

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Assembly member Harvey Epstein.
Photo by Dean Moses

Access to abortion pills could soon be guaranteed for students at public colleges and universities across New York State, after the New York State Assembly voted to pass legislation sponsored by New York Assemblymember Harvey Epstein (AD-74) on Tuesday. 

The legislation aims to ensure that all students enrolled at State University of New York (SUNY) and City University of New York (CUNY) have access to medication abortion on their campuses. The legislation would require every campus to “either employ or contract with authorized prescribers” or provide students with information and referrals to authorized medication abortion prescribers in the area.

“Reproductive rights are under attack and this is an opportunity to stand up and fight back,” Epstein said on the assembly floor Tuesday.

The bill’s passage comes at a time when elected officials across the state have been mobilizing in the wake of a Texas federal judge’s ruling on April 7 to delegitimize the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval of mifepristone, the most commonly used abortion pill.

New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said in a statement that New York State will uphold women’s access to abortion and reproductive health care.

“While the Supreme Court and states across the country roll back women’s access to abortion and reproductive health care, here in New York we will not,” Heastie said. “This bill will ensure that our public university and college students have access to care that will allow them to continue their education.” 

Epstein said the decision from Texas judge Matthew Kacsmaryk “flies in the face of decades of extensive evidence demonstrating the safety and efficacy of mifepristone.” The Assemblyman also referenced his daughter before Tuesday’s vote, saying that she had graduated from SUNY Albany and said he wished she had access to all the health care she needed on her campus. 

“That’s why we want it on campuses because that’s where students are at and where they can make well-informed healthcare decisions,” Epstein said.

Student representatives from several colleges across the state formed a coalition called Reproductive Justice Collective that has been calling on universities to provide medication abortion at campus health centers. Student representatives from the collective previously held a rally — which Assemblymember Epstein had also attended — in December 2022 to advocate for abortion medication at campuses across New York. 

Niharika Rao, spokesperson of the Reproductive Justice Collective, told amNewYork Metro in a statement that the collective was grateful for the legislation  and that it will reduce barriers to access for students across New York. 

“The legislation comes at a critical time when the nation’s far-right courts are attacking medication abortion,” Rao said. “We look forward to working with CUNY and SUNY campuses to ensure that implementation prioritizes on-campus provision and reduces the burden on our clinics.”

The bill now moves on to the New York State Senate for a vote. 

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