Handful of States Buck Trend on Abortion Restrictions, Try To Expand Access

April 25, 2012 — As many states move to place new restrictions on abortion care, others are diverging from national trends by considering legislation that would expand access to and coverage of abortion, the Huffington Post reports (Edwards-Levy, Huffington Post, 4/24).

In California, state Sen. Christine Kehoe (D) recently proposed legislation (SB 1338) that would have allowed up to 24,000 trained nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives and physician assistants to provide abortion care (Gardner, U-T San Diego, 4/24). However, on Tuesday, the Senate Public Safety Committee approved a scaled-back version of the bill that would allow only 41 providers trained under a University of California-San Francisco pilot program -- as well as clinicians who are trained this year -- to continue performing abortion procedures (Van Oot, Sacramento Bee, 4/25).

"When we see other states rolling back access to reproductive health, the bills that we've seen in Virginia and other states requiring ultrasounds and lectures from the doctor to the woman -- those are not policies I support, nor do I think the majority of the California legislature supports those kinds of policies," Kehoe said. She added, "We would like to see that negative conversation turn around and emphasize women's health and safe early access to reproductive services."

Other state legislation aims to expand access to abortion, including a measure in New York that would codify a woman's right to an abortion. In Washington, lawmakers proposed a bill that would have required all health plans operating in the state to provide coverage for abortion care. The bill was approved in the House but died in the Senate.

Washington Rep. Laurie Jinkins (D), the bill's sponsor, said the push in other states to limit access to the procedure has energized abortion-rights supporters in her state. "There's a huge attack on women's reproductive health. ... It does make it more clear why in states like Washington, where we've had a 40-year history of protecting women's rights, why we need to make sure that we keep on doing it," she said.

Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute said, "We haven't seen much action around those proactive issues, around family planning, for the past couple years precisely because there has been a lot of defensive work that has had to be done at the state level." She added, "Certainly this year we have seen push-back in ways we were not seeing in 2011 or 2010" (Huffington Post, 4/24).