UMass Amherst to offer medicine abortions starting this fall


Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa sponsors a bill that could increase access to abortion services at public universities across the state.

UMass Amherst to offer medicine abortions starting this fall

Thousands of people attended a Defend Abortion meeting at Franklin Park’s Playstead Park on October 2, 2021. John Tlumacki / Globe Staff

The University of Massachusetts Amherst announced last week that it would begin offering medical abortion at its health center next fall. This marks a major victory for an effort led by State Representative Lindsay Sabadosa to close the gap in access to abortion in Massachusetts.

“Campus has heard from students that they want access to the medically prescribed drug,” university officials said in response to a Boston Globe request. “Because of the remarkable distance to providers from the Amherst campus, and because the campus already offers comprehensive gynecological and reproductive care to students, UMass Amherst plans to offer the medical abortion pill to students on site at our University Health Services clinic.”

The closest Planned Parenthood to UMass Amherst is in Springfield, a more than two-hour trip for students who do not have a car.

Medication abortion can be taken to terminate a pregnancy for up to 10 weeks and involves a two-step series of pills. The first pill, called mifepristone, stops the pregnancy from growing by stopping the supply of hormones that are responsible for maintaining the interior of the uterus. That pill is followed 24 to 48 hours later by a pill called misoprostol, which effectively induces an abortion.

The pandemic led to a marked increase in the availability of medication abortions – until mid-December 2021, the pills were to be distributed by a clinic. Now they can be sent per mail, which opens the door for telemedicine providers to prescribe it. This method of abortion has been in the United States for 20 years.

That bill Sabadosa, a Democrat from Northhampton, sponsors goals to make abortion services more accessible, specifically to college students, by requiring public universities to provide medical abortion services at student health centers. It would establish a fund administered by the Department of Public Health and the Department of Higher Education to help cover the cost of medication abortion options.

“The bill at its core is really a health infrastructure bill. … Really, what it’s trying to do is strengthen health services on campus,” Sabadosa said. and the training needed to better provide maternal health care on campus, you have the ability to provide better reproductive loss health care on campus. “

A recent study by Carrie N. Baker, a professor of gender studies at Smith College, estimates that 600 to 1,380 public college students in Massachusetts receive medical abortion services each year. Sabadosa stressed that abortions on university campuses are nothing new.

The bill is currently with the Joint Committee on Public Health, said Sabadosa, who has a reporting deadline of February 2.

Sabadosa said that with some states trying to roll back access to reproductive health care, the demand for services such as abortions is likely to increase in states like Massachusetts that have protected the right to those services.

“It’s time for those states that really say abortion is health care to prove it,” Sabadosa said. “We’re talking about a pill that has fewer side effects than Claritin. So if we want to let people treat their allergies, then we should let people control their reproductive health care.”

The bill has drawn criticism and complaints from activists trying to block abortion access on campuses across the country. Students for Life Action, which has groups in all 50 states, is pushing for a congressional law banning universities that offer medical abortion from receiving federal funding.

“We think it’s compromising women’s safety,” said Kate Scott, a 21-year-old biochemist and molecular biology who started a Students for Life group at UMass Amherst two years ago. Boston Globe. “And we also think it is outside the scope of what a public university should do. Especially with taxpayer funding. ”

Medical abortions have long been partially performed at home, Sabadosa said. The other pill has been taken at home for years and the Food and Drug Administration lifting some rules of treatment have made it so both pills will be taken at home.

“It’s an incredibly safe procedure that I think people are not aware of either,” Sabadosa said. “People tend to think that abortion is surgical. It is not. This is really taking hormone pills.”

Universities in Massachusetts have not thrown themselves over the bill, in part because some campuses lack “robust medical facilities,” said Vincent Pedone, executive director of the State Universities Council of Presidents. Globe.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule this spring in an abortion case with the potential to overturn 49 years of precedent and allow states to ban abortions. Sabadosa said in this climate that it is particularly important that Massachusetts lower the stigma that often surrounds abortion.

“We also need to be proactive in what the anti-election movement does. We already know that there are fake clinics in the state – they count real clinics three to one. We want to make sure that our students do not come to fake clinics. We want to make sure we do not have fake mail-in websites where you do not actually get the medicine, ”Sabadosa said. “We want people to be protected”

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