On Wednesday, October 9, 2013 Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law increasing the types of medical workers allowed to perform abortions in California. AB154, sponsored by Assemblywoman Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), permits physician’s assistants, nurse practitioners, and certified nurse-midwives to carry out abortions during the first trimester. Non-physicians will have to undergo training before being allowed to perform the procedure.
The bill seeks to increase access to abortions for women across the state, especially those living in rural areas. According to Assemblywoman Atkins, not enough physicians perform abortions to meet current demand in California. With the implementation of AB154, she hopes that women seeking to terminate a pregnancy will not have to travel long distances to receive an abortion.
Supporters of the bill believe abortions carried out by non-physicians carry equal risk to those performed by licensed doctors, noting a study by UC San Francisco, which concluded complication rates between abortions performed by non-physicians and physicians remained statistically similar. Organizations in support of AB154 include the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Project of Los Angeles County and California Women’s Health Allowance. On the other hand, opponents of AB154 argue the bill will reduce the quality of medical care and jeopardize the well-being of patients. Critics also raise concerns that clinics will be ill-prepared to deal with potential emergency situations when complications arise due to the lack of surgical abilities and the absence of licensed doctors.
California remains the only state to pass a bill in 2013 creating easier access for abortions. New York and Washington State also wanted to increase access to abortion procedures, but proposed bills failed due to strong Republican opposition.
AB154 passed in the Assembly with a 50-25 vote on May 28, 2013, and then passed through the Senate with a 25-11 vote on August 26, 2013. It passed on a strictly partisan vote, with no Republicans voting for the bill. The law goes into effect January 1, 2014.