While other states tighten their abortion regulations, California has expanded access to allow more women safe, early-term abortions.
Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill on Wednesday enabling physician assistants, nurse practitioners and midwives to perform a specific type of abortion on women in the first trimester of pregnancy. With this law, California is the only state in the nation to expand abortion access in 2013.
State Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, who wrote the legislation, said, “We are trending in a different direction, and we’re very proud of it. California has a strong history of support for reproductive health care for women.”
Non-physician practitioners will only be able to provide a procedure called an aspiration abortion, during which a tube is inserted into the uterus and the contents are vacuumed out.
Four other states already allow non-doctors to perform aspiration abortions: Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon and Vermont.
With the new California bill, abortions will be more accessible to women who don’t live near an abortion clinic or don’t have a local physician willing to perform the procedure.
“This is an issue of accessibility. California is a very large state, and more than half the counties don’t have an abortion provider,” said Atkins.
Prior to the bill’s passage, the University of California, San Francisco, carried out a pilot program allowing about 8,000 non-physician abortions.
Dr. Tracy Waits, who led the study, said, “This is a very safe procedure, and we now have a very large study to show that this does not compromise safety. Most people saying it compromises safety actually have an agenda to make abortion illegal, which we know from decades of experience actually makes abortion unsafe.”
In other states, 68 laws have been passed in 2013 to limit access to abortions. Because Democrats have a majority in all offices and legislative houses, they are often able to skirt conservative trends.