California Legislature Seeks To Expand Women’s Access To Abortions

While most states are considering measures that curtail women’s access to abortion, in the state of California, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and nurse midwives may soon be permitted to perform routine abortions in a woman’s first trimester of pregnancy if a bill authored by state Sen. Christine Kehoe (D) passes in the Senate. Bill SB1501 would make aspiration abortions — the most common method for terminating early pregnancies — more accessible and more affordable, especially for women who live in rural areas (where 97 percent of rural counties have no abortion provider).

Most nurse practitioners and physical assistants are skilled at administering a wide range of routine gynelogical care to women — including Pap smears, IUD insertions, prenatal care, and labor and delivery assistance and in California, non-physician professionals are allowed to provide medication that causes an abortion under a doctor’s supervision. Bill SB1501 would only expand the law to include aspiration abortions:

“We believe it will give many California women access to earlier, safer procedures in the first trimester of their pregnancy,” Kehoe said at a news conference in Sacramento on Tuesday.

Abortion rights proponents celebrated Kehoe’s measure as one that bucks the national trend of restricting access to the procedure. The Alan Guttmacher Institute, which tracks reproductive health issues, found that legislators across the country proposed a record number of laws limiting abortion last year and that 135 became law.

California isn’t alone in expanding women’s access to abortion, however. Washington state is currently considering a measure that would require all health insurers who cover maternity care to also insure abortions, so that women “continue to have easy access to abortions once changes in federal health-care laws take effect in 2014.” According to the Guttmacher Institute, New York is the only other state considering similar legislation.

Fatima Najiy