Calif. Bucks National Abortion Restriction Trend, Stirs Debate

October 16, 2013 — While other states are moving to restrict abortion, California has passed two new laws expanding access to abortions, the Washington Times reports (Wetzstein, Washington Times, 10/14).

Last week, Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed a bill (AB 154) aimed at expanding abortion access by allowing non-physician health care providers -- such as nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives and physician assistants -- to perform first-trimester aspiration abortions after completing specific training and complying with standardized medical protocols. Brown signed another bill (AB 980) that treats all primary clinics the same under the state building code, regardless of whether they provide abortions (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/10).

Debate on New Measures Continues

Supporters of the new laws say they are necessary to increase abortion access for women in parts of the state with few or no clinics, while opponents claim the laws will increase the number of abortions in the state.

Assembly member Toni Atkins (D) -- lead sponsor of AB 154 said, "Early abortion access is a critical public health issue," adding that allowing more medical professionals to perform abortions will help women in underserved areas obtain the procedure without traveling "excessively long distances." Dozens of groups representing midwives, NPs, PAs and reproductive justice advocates, such as Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California Action Funds, also supported the bill.

PPACAF also supported AB 980, which it said updates outdated and "out-of-sync" building requirements that only applied to abortion clinics.

However, abortion-rights opponents said the state should instead embrace what they call "common-sense" abortion restrictions that are being enacted throughout the country.

California Pro-Life Council spokesperson Anissa Smith said, "Reducing the medical standards for abortion, both in the personnel and the sanitary conditions required, defies logic for those who say they care about women."

Brian Johnston -- executive director of CPLC -- added that there will be efforts to limit the law allowing non-physician clinicians to perform abortion as the regulations are being written and possible efforts to stop the law from taking effect on Jan. 1 (Washington Times, 10/14).