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Calif. Gov. Brown Signs Bills on Access to Contraception and Abortion, Breast-Density Notification

Calif. Gov. Brown Signs Bills on Access to Contraception and Abortion, Breast-Density Notification

September 24, 2012 — California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) on Saturday signed 25 health related bills, including three bills allowing registered nurses to dispense contraceptives; expanding access to abortion care for women, especially in rural areas; and requiring women to be notified if they have dense breast tissue, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Contraception Bill

The contraception-dispensing bill (AB 2348) establishes a standardized procedure under which RNs can dispense hormonal contraceptives. The bill, introduced by Assembly member Holly Mitchell (D), "also allows RNs to dispense drugs and devices upon an order by a certified nurse-midwife, a nurse practitioner or a physician assistant while functioning within specified clinic settings," according to the governor's office. The law takes effect Jan. 1.

Brown called the bill a reaffirmation of "every woman's basic constitutional rights" (McGreevy/Bloomekatz, Los Angeles Times, 9/23). He added, "Instead of shrinking back and trying to take away women's health care services or birth control, we're empowering women, and we do it proudly" (Smith, Sacramento Bee, 9/24).

Mitchell said the bill would ease access to birth control for women in rural areas with shortages of health care providers. Kathy Kneer -- president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California -- said, "By using RNs to the full ability of their training, ... we're freeing up space for women who have higher risk conditions to see a nurse practitioner or physician" (Abdollah, KPCC, 9/22).

The bill is opposed by the California Nurses Association, which said it could lead to decreases in care quality for low-income women (Sacramento Bee, 9/24).

Abortion Care Bill

SB 623 -- introduced by Sen. Christine Kehoe (D) -- extends for two years a pilot program that allows a limited number of NPs, certified nurse midwives and PAs to provide medication abortion.

The program aims to expand access to abortion for women in remote areas where there are few physicians. Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California and the American Civil Liberties Union of California support the legislation.

Breast-Density Notification Bill

In addition, Brown signed legislation (SB 1538) requiring health care providers to notify women if dense breast tissue is detected and encourage them to speak with their physicians about whether additional breast cancer screening is warranted. Dense breast tissue can affect women's mammogram results and detection of breast cancer. The law takes effect April 1 (Los Angeles Times, 9/23).

Brown vetoed a similar bill in 2011 out of concern that "greater knowledge" would cause "unnecessary anxiety" for women with dense breast tissue. State Sen. Joe Simitian (D), who authored the bill, thanked Brown for his willingness to work with lawmakers and health care interest groups to amend the measure (AP/U-T San Diego, 9/22).