California Just Took Two Huge Steps Forward To Protect Reproductive Rights

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Over the past several months, California has bucked the national trend and proposed a rash of new legislation to protect women’s health. As other states across the country are launching a coordinated attack against abortion access, the Golden State is taking the direct opposite approach.

And on Wednesday, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) made it official. The governor approved two pieces of legislation, Assembly Bill 154 and Assembly Bill 980, that will help expand women’s access to safe, legal abortion services.

The first new law will allow a wider pool of medical professionals to perform abortions, helping to address the state’s current abortion provider shortage. The second will eliminate unnecessary and burdensome regulations on abortion clinics, ensuring that clinics won’t be forced to close because they can’t adhere to harsh standards that don’t actually have anything to do with patient safety.

Proponents of the new measures point out that over half of California counties currently lack an abortion provider. They say it’s an issue of accessibility: Even if Roe v. Wade is technically still the law of the land, other barriers to abortion access can still prevent women from exercising their reproductive rights. That’s becoming an unfortunate reality in many parts of the country, and it’s why increasing numbers of women are being forced to cross state lines in order to get the abortion care they need.

“We are trending in a different direction, and we’re very proud of it,” Toni Atkins, the state assemblywoman who wrote Assembly Bill 154, noted. “California has a strong history of support for reproductive health care for women.”

Under Assembly Bill 154, nurse practitioners, midwives, and trained physician’s assistants will be able to perform first-trimester abortions. A multi-year study recently conducted by researchers at the University of California-San Francisco found that’s a perfectly safe practice. Washington, Montana, Vermont, and New Hampshire also allow nurse practitioners to provide this type of care.

Ultimately, as MSNBC’s Irin Carmon points out, the new laws represent an important step forward to prevent California women from falling prey to illegal abortion providers — like the infamous Kermit Gosnell.

The right-wing has adopted Gosnell’s name as somewhat of a rallying cry, attempting to make the case that his crimes prove abortion is inherently unsafe. However, anti-choice activists’ push to limit access to legal abortion services actually undermines the goal of protecting women from dangerous clinics like Gosnell’s. When reproductive health care is easily accessible, desperate women aren’t forced to resort to dangerous and illegal methods to terminate a pregnancy. “The groups that used Gosnell as a cudgel for new abortion laws should have been cheering Brown’s decision, not testifying against it,” Carmon concludes.