California Governor Signs Bill Allowing Nurses, Midwives to Perform First Trimester Abortions

Gov Brown pdSACRAMENTO — The governor of California has signed a bill into law that would allow nurses and other ‘non-physicians’ to perform abortions on babies up to twelve weeks in gestation.

As previously reported, AB 154, which was sponsored by Democratic Assembly Member Toni Atkins of San Diego, aims to make abortion more accessible in the state, especially in rural areas where abortionists are more difficult to find.

“This bill would state that it is the intent of the legislature to enact legislation that would expand access to reproductive health care in California by allowing qualified health care professionals to perform early abortions,” it reads.

Heretofore, it had been considered a criminal offense for non-physicians to perform abortions.

“Existing law makes it a public offense, punishable by a fine not exceeding $10,000 or imprisonment, or both, for a person to perform or assist in performing a surgical abortion if the person does not have a valid license to practice as a physician and surgeon, or to assist in performing a surgical abortion without a valid license or certificate obtained in accordance with some other law that authorizes him or her to perform the functions necessary to assist in performing a surgical abortion,” the bill noted.

Atkins said that the legislation was necessary because she believes that there is a “shortage” of abortion services in the state. There are currently 109 abortion facilities in California—the most in the nation.

“Increasing the number of trained healthcare providers who can perform abortions on a timely basis without requiring significant travel will improve the lives of women and their families in many ways,” Atkins said in a statement following the bill’s signing on Wednesday.

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The bill passed the Assembly in May 50-25, and the Senate followed last month with a 25-11 vote. It then went to the desk of Governor Jerry Brown for signing, who announced this week that he had “signed seven bills to support the health and well-being of women in California.”

However, pro-life groups in the state are lamenting the new law, stating that it is harmful to both women and children in the state.

“This bill is not about helping women,” Anissa Smith, spokeswoman for the California ProLife Council, told reporters. “It is specifically designed to trivialize what an abortion is, and its risks.”

“It will massively expand the number of abortions and at the same time reduce safety,” Brian Johnston, director of the National Right to Life’s Western regional office, told the New York Times. “For those who say they care about women’s health, they’re doing the opposite, reducing the medical standards for abortion.”

The California Family Alliance had urged its supporters to write Governor Brown and ask that he veto the legislation.

“[T]he Guttmacher Institute, the research agency affiliated with Planned Parenthood, notes that less than one percent of women live in California counties without an abortion provider,” a sample letter read. “Additional research shows that California is home to nearly one-third of the country’s abortion providers, while its abortion rate is 8 percent higher than the national average. It is clear that access to abortion in California is not lacking.”

Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon and Vermont have all legalized non-physician abortions, but a number of other states have conversely passed dozens of abortion restrictions this year, including in Alabama, Texas, North Dakota and Wisconsin.

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