Since the U.S. Supreme Court issued the landmark decision affirming the constitutional right to an abortion in Roe v. Wade, we've seen states pass over one thousand restrictions that make it harder for women to have an abortion. In just the first six months of 2018, 11 states enacted 22 new medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion. A Kentucky lawmaker recently introduced a bill that bans abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected and about half a dozen other states are currently considering bills like it.

While California hasn't faced a groundswell of abortion restrictions, accessing abortion in the nation's largest state can nevertheless be difficult. Case in point: California university students are forced to go off campus to seek abortion care.

It's time to change that.

Once a student has decided to end a pregnancy, they shouldn't be forced to go off campus to see a provider they don't know — when an abortion pill can easily be provided on campus. It might not seem like that big of a deal to some but leaving campus to get health care means taking time away from class, an internship, studying, family commitments, or a job. This creates unnecessary barriers for many students:

  • Every month, around 500 students at the University of California and California State University campuses seek the abortion pill at off-site health care facilities.
  • Some students have to travel up to four hours to find abortion care.
  • Over two-thirds of UC students and one-third of CSU students do not have a car.
  • On average, a student seeking abortion in California will have to wait one week for the next available appointment at the facility closest to their campus — and that's assuming they can make it to the appointment.
  • More than half of all students in UC and CSU universities are low-income.

These barriers disproportionately harm students of color, low-income students, first-generation college students, and students who are already parents. Many student health centers already offer other reproductive health services, including birth control and STI testing. Yet California has failed to provide access to all the reproductive health services university students need, including the abortion pill.

This situation is unacceptable, but it can be remedied. At a time when abortion rights are under threat throughout the country, California can and must be a leader.

Last year, Senator Connie Leyva (D-Chino) introduced legislation that would have made the abortion pill available at every public university student health center. Thanks to the leadership of countless California students, the state legislature approved the bill. Unfortunately, then-governor Jerry Brown vetoed it.

But we're not giving up.

Last month, Senator Leyva reintroduced the bill, the College Student Right to Access Act (SB 24), to make sure California supports students' access to abortion care on campus.

We are going all in and working with student leaders, Senator Leyva, and our partners at the Women's Foundation of California/Women's Policy Institute, ACCESS Women's Health Justice, ACT for Women and Girls, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, NARAL Pro-Choice California, Students United for Reproductive Justice at Berkeley, as well as with medical, reproductive health, and community groups from across the state to make sure the College Student Right to Access Act becomes law.

Join us! Commemorate the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade by emailing your state senator and asking them to support SB 24 now.

Support college students' access to abortion care at California's public universities.

Date

Tuesday, January 22, 2019 - 4:00pm

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46 years since Roe v. Wade. Photo of a group of young women standing side-by-side.

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Make sure California supports students' access to abortion care on campus.

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46 years since Roe v. Wade. Photo of a group of young women standing side-by-side.

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Gender Equity, Women’s Rights, & Reproductive Justice Economic Justice

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Maya Ingram

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In recent years, the federal government has significantly ramped up its efforts to monitor people on social media. The FBI, for one, has repeatedly acknowledged that it engages in surveillance of social media posts. So it was surprising when the bureau responded to our Freedom of Information Act request on this kind of surveillance by saying that it “can neither confirm nor deny the existence of records.”

The six other federal agencies we submitted the FOIA request to haven’t produced a single document. The request, filed last May, seeks information on how the agencies collect and analyze posts from Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites.

Today we sued the agencies to get some answers, because the public has a right to know about the exact nature of social media surveillance — especially whether agencies are monitoring and retaining social media posts, or using surveillance products that label activists and people of color as threats to public safety based on their First Amendment-protected activities.

Based on what little information is publicly available, it’s clear that the federal government routinely tracks domestic social media users, with a particular focus on immigrants.

For example, according to official government websites, the FBI has sought to create an application that would enable it to “instantly search and monitor” information on social media platforms. It completed detailed documentation stating that it intended to contract with Dataminr, a data analytics and machine-learning vendor that we previously called out for sharing data with federal “fusion centers,”  to obtain “the mission critical social media monitoring needed by the FBI.” And it contracted with Pen-Link, another big data analytics firm, for “software that parses and analyzes social media data.”

Meanwhile, the State Department has announced plans to collect usernames from nearly all of the 14.7 million people who annually apply for work or tourist visas. And the Department of Homeland Security and its agencies have repeatedly expanded their manual and automated social media surveillance in efforts that include the misguided “extreme vetting initiative.”

Federal law enforcement surveillance of social media associated with Black Lives Matter has already been exposed, continuing a decades-long pattern of government monitoring of minority activists and communities. 

The government could be using commercial surveillance software to conduct this surveillance:  Documents obtained by the ACLU of Northern California in 2016 revealed how companies marketing this software had built products specifically for law enforcement monitoring. The disclosure of the documents resulted in policy changes from Twitter and Facebook.

Social media surveillance raises a number of red flags. First, it discourages people from speaking freely — a phenomenon that research and studies bear out.

Indeed, in its letter responding to our FOIA request, the FBI said that simply acknowledging its use of social media surveillance would “risk circumvention of the law.” The bureau seems to be saying that if people knew that the government is monitoring what they’re saying on social media, they’d be less likely to say it. That looks like an admission of the chilling effect that the First Amendment aims to prevent. But because almost all online speech is lawful, it doesn’t make sense to argue that social media users are “circumventing” the law if they limit what they say online.

Aside from chilling expression, government monitoring of social media raises the risk that innocent people will be wrongly investigated or put on government watchlists based on that speech.

It’s clear from already public information that all of the agencies we’re targeting in our FOIA lawsuit engage in manual and automated surveillance of social media users and their speech, and it’s unacceptable for the government to withhold details about this domestic spying. The public needs to know how the government is watching us — and we shouldn’t have to think about self-censoring what we say online.

Date

Thursday, January 17, 2019 - 1:30pm

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FBI Building

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Privacy and Surveillance

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Hugh Handeyside
Matt Cagle

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