SACRAMENTO — Three California bishops are calling on local Catholics to pray and fight against a bill that would require state colleges and universities to provide free access to abortion pills for students.

The bill, SB 24, is a slightly-amended version of a bill introduced in California’s state legislature last year that was ultimately vetoed.

Former Governor Jerry Brown, a public supporter of abortion, vetoed the similar bill last September, saying it was was “not necessary,” as abortion services are already “widely available” off campus.

California’s current governor, Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, said before his election that he would have supported the abortion pill mandate, but has not commented on the new version of the bill since he took office.

The bill would also create a fund to provide a $200,000 grant to each public university student health center to pay for the cost of offering abortion pills, with money coming from nonstate sources such as private sector entities and local and federal government agencies.

The bill would only take effect if $10.2 million in private funds are made available by Jan 1, 2020.

Besides requiring college health centers to provide abortion pills free of charge, SB 24 would also require abortion counseling services to students, but it is “specifically written in such a way to exclude pro-life counseling,” the California Catholic Conference said in a statement on their website.

“This bill fails to allow students the opportunity to know their life-affirming options,” the statement adds.

In an open appeal to Catholics in his local Church, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles urged Catholics to remember their values and to fight the bill through prayer and action.

“If we are going to be the people God calls us to be, if we are going to restore and renew the Church and rebuild society, then we need a new dedication to living our Catholic identity and communicating that identity in everything we do, from our schools and religious education programs to the way we live our faith in society,” he said in the appeal, published in the Angelus diocesan paper.

“In practical terms, that means bringing our family and neighbors to know the love of God, and it means working for a society of love and compassion that truly serves the human person,” he added. He noted that this applies to all people, including the immigrant or refugee, the unborn, or the person on death row.

“(A) compassionate society should have more to offer women in need than the ability to end the life of their children before they are born,” he added.

He urged Catholics to visit the California Catholic Conference’s website to learn more about the bill, and to call their legislators and tell them to vote against SB 24.

“We should defeat this bill and work to find new ways to truly help pregnant women and working mothers trying to continue their education,” he added.

In his appeal to Catholics, Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento called on the people of his diocese to join in a novena for the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe in order to defeat SB 24. Our Lady of Guadalupe, who on the tilma is depicted as pregnant with Christ, is an often-invoked patroness of the unborn.

“This is unprecedented intrusion on university campuses. It is unnecessary and only serves to further indoctrinate the young to the ideology of abortion,” Soto said in a letter to the people of his diocese.

“We must continue our efforts to stop this deadly piece of legislation. The womb should not become a tomb for any child anywhere in our state. Women and children deserve better.”

He thanked the people of his diocese for their letters and phone calls to their legislators, and suggested visiting their offices as well. However, prayer is of the utmost importance, he added.

“Our own political action is important but we must also draw wisdom and strength from prayer. Salvation History is filled with examples of the focused, unified prayer of many Christians overcoming evil even when, from our limited human perspective, the cause seemed insurmountable and hopeless,” he said.

The end of the Aug. 3-11 novena coincides with the the day the state legislature reconvenes after its summer recess.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco has also asked Catholics of his diocese to join in the novena to defeat the “dangerous and unprecedented” bill.

Medical abortions involve the taking of two pills - the first, mifepristone, blocks progesterone, which is essential for maintaining the health of the fetus. The second pill, misoprostol, is taken 24 hours after mifepristone and works to induce contractions in order to expel the fetus.