California Takes Two Giant Steps Forward to Protect Reproductive Rights

Californians are expected to have better access to abortion care now that Gov. Jerry Brown has signed two new laws, AB 154 and AB 980, allowing more medical professionals to provide first-trimester abortions and allowing abortion facilities to meet the same standards as primary care clinics.

Nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, and physician assistants in California will now be able to perform first-trimester aspiration abortions, while abortion clinics across the state will not be uniquely required to make the often unnecessary physical changes, like modifications to air conditioning units, that have little impact on patient safety but that can be costly to providers.

With this new legislation, California is going against the national trend. States across the country are seeking to increase requirements for abortion facilities—requiring them to meet ambulatory surgical center standards, for example—and reduce the number of medical professionals who can provide abortions by requiring abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges.

“California is leading the way for the rest of the country,” said Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards in a statement, “showing that this is not the time to go backwards on access to safe and legal abortion.”

A University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) study has shown that complications from first-trimester abortions “were clinically equivalent” whether performed by physicians or nurse midwives, nurse practitioners, or physician assistants.

Dr. Tracy Weitz, the UCSF researcher who conducted the study, told the New York Times that having certain non-physician medical professionals perform early abortions “does not compromise safety” and that ”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.”

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