Many Massachusetts college students will no longer have to travel far to obtain a medication abortion.

A sweeping bill signed last week by Gov. Charlie Baker that expands reproductive health care and gender-affirming services in the commonwealth includes a section that ensures public college and university students have access to medication abortion, either through the college’s health services or by connecting students with outside resources.

Taylor St. Germain, communications director for Reproductive Equity Now, said the law will help break down barriers to abortion access.

“What this legislation was intended to do was to normalize medication abortion as a part of health care and put it where students already are, which is on their campuses and in campus health centers. Students are already receiving a large chunk of their health care from these campus health centers a lot of the time,” St. Germain said.

A 2021 study from Smith College found that public university students in the state have to travel as much as 42 miles and take as long as six and a half hours on public transit to access the nearest abortion-providing facility. According to the study, the average cost of medication abortion was $680. A medication abortion consists of a two-drug regimen of mifepristone and misoprostol, which can be used in a patient’s first 9 to 11 weeks of pregnancy.

The new law requires public colleges and universities to submit a medication abortion readiness plan, outlining how the school will provide medication abortions or assist their students in receiving one. The Department of Public Health will then review the plans and determine whether it is adequate. The legislation also creates the Public University Health Center Sexual and Reproductive Health Preparation Fund to help cover expenses for implementing new programs.

Students can also access abortion pills via mail and through telehealth, but these pills are not always covered by insurance and can be expensive. State Representative Lindsay Sabadosa of Northampton said she wanted to make sure every student at public colleges and universities could access the pills, regardless of their financial situation.

“I think with abortion in particular, people who have money and resources are very often able to obtain whatever they need, but we want to make sure that's true for everybody,” Rep. Sabadosa said.

A previous bill would have required public colleges and universities to provide abortion pills themselves, but some smaller universities don’t have health services on campus, so the wording was changed.

“We wanted to come up with a system that was still going to allow students to reach out to their health centers and obtain the level of care that made sense for each campus. It was very clear that you can't do a one size fits all model,” Sabadosa said.

Public colleges and universities have until November 2023 to submit their medication abortion readiness plan.