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Calif. Gov. Brown Signs Bills Expanding Abortion Access, Ensuring Same-Sex Couples Receive Coverage for Assisted Reproduction

Calif. Gov. Brown Signs Bills Expanding Abortion Access, Ensuring Same-Sex Couples Receive Coverage for Assisted Reproduction

October 10, 2013 — Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown (D) on Wednesday signed into law a bill (AB 154) that aims to expand abortion access by allowing certain non-physician health care providers to perform first-trimester abortions, the Sacramento Bee reports (Siders, Sacramento Bee, 10/9).

The law allows nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives and physician assistants to perform aspiration abortions during the first trimester of pregnancy (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/3). The measure requires the providers to complete specific training and comply with standardized medical protocols.

Forty-seven nurse practitioners and other non-physicians already have completed training to provide first-trimester aspiration abortions when the law takes effect on Jan. 1 (McGreevy/York, Los Angeles Times, 10/9).

According to Reuters, four additional states -- New Hampshire, Montana, Oregon and Vermont -- also allow non-physicians to perform certain abortions, but California has become the first state to codify the policy into law (Bernstein/Whitcomb, Reuters, 10/9).

The bill was one of several health-related measures Brown announced he had signed on Wednesday. Another bill included a measure (AB 980) requiring the state building code to treat all primary care clinics the same, regardless of whether they provide abortions.


State Assembly member Toni Atkins (D), the bill's author, said, "California has a strong history of support for reproductive health care for women," adding that the state is "trending in a different direction" from the rest of the nation. She said the bill will improve abortion access for women in rural parts of the state, noting, "California is a very large state, and more than half of the counties don't have an abortion provider" (Lovett, New York Times, 10/9).

Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California President and CEO Kathy Kneer touted Brown's support for bills relating to women's health, calling him a "champion" for such issues. In a statement, Kneer said Brown's "signing of these bills comes at a critical time when other states and the Congress are moving to restrict access to reproductive health care" (Sacramento Bee, 10/9).

However, abortion-rights opponents said the law puts women's health in danger.

Brian Johnston -- director of National Right to Life's Western regional office -- said the "bill trivializes what is taking place with abortion" by expanding "the number of abortions and at the same time reduc[ing] safety." Johnston added, "For those who say they care about women's health, they're doing the opposite, reducing the medical standards for abortion" (New York Times, 10/9).

Bill Ensures ART Coverage for Same-Sex Couples

On Tuesday, Brown signed into law a bill (AB 460) that guarantees same-sex and unmarried couples receive the same health coverage for assisted reproductive technologies as heterosexual, married couples, the AP/U-T San Diego reports.

The new law -- proposed by Assembly member Tom Ammiano (D) -- clarifies that health plans offering coverage for fertility treatments cannot discriminate on any basis, including "domestic partner status, gender, gender expression, gender identity, genetic information, marital status ... sex or sexual orientation." The law takes effect in January.

California law already requires insurers to offer some health plans that cover ART, with the exception of in vitro fertilization. However, Ammiano and other supporters of the new law said many same-sex couples have reported being denied such coverage.

Judy Appel -- executive director of Our Family Coalition -- said coverage for fertility treatments typically does not take effect until couples have tried to conceive naturally for one year, which is not possible for same-sex couples. As a result, Appel said same-sex couples could be forced to pay out of pocket for treatments, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars (Verdin, AP/U-T San Diego, 10/8).