Anna Harte, medical director of University Health Services (UHS) at UC Berkeley, reflected on Friday’s U.S. Supreme Court’s decision allowing many states to end or sharply curtail abortion rights. As the medical director for campus health services, she oversees all the medical services provided at UHS.
“At UC Berkeley’s University Health Services, we have always said that if the climate becomes such that the option for abortion — or other medical services — becomes more difficult in the country, that’ll push us to expand our services faster in order to meet the needs of our community.
If a student thinks they might be pregnant, UHS offers several services focused on assisting students in making a choice that is right for them, and supporting them along the way; this is particularly critical in unintended pregnancies. In-house, UHS performs pregnancy and other lab testing, medical care, mental health support, prenatal care referrals and medication abortion. UHS also provides information about surgical abortion and the adoption process in California. Clinicians, nurses and social service counselors at UHS are ready to assist our patients in navigating these options.
UHS was the first provider of medication abortion — abortion that occurs through the ingestion of pills — in the UC student health system and one of the first student health centers in the country. We started providing the service during the pandemic. UC Berkeley students were a big part of making that happen through advocacy for state legislation, ultimately leading to the passage of SB-24, which requires UC and CSU campus health centers to offer medication abortion services by 2023.
We are currently providing medication abortion in person only, including monitoring via ultrasound. I do think it is possible we may be able to eventually provide this care virtually, which is much talked about in the community currently. We do have legal and licensure requirements and must ensure that quality and safety are maintained along with a positive patient experience. However, we are learning more and more every day about what can be done virtually, and medication abortion is, fundamentally, very safe, as long as there is a strong support structure in place.
When people’s rights are limited in other parts of the country, it lights a fire under us. We say, ‘OK, how are we going to make even more effort to ensure that we are standing out in what we can do locally? How can we support Berkeley students who might be elsewhere, on leave or traveling? And how much can we interface with our colleagues across the country who might be in those states to help take care of these students?’
UHS providers will continue to be committed to offering our patients a full range of reproductive health care services delivered with the utmost care and compassion.”