California governor signs bill to let nurse-practitioners, others perform abortions


SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California women will have more access to abortion after Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Wednesday that allows nurse practitioners and other non-physicians to perform the procedure during the first trimester of pregnancy.

Democratic Assemblywoman Toni Atkins introduced the measure because of concern that there are not enough physicians, especially in rural areas, to meet the needs of women who desire an abortion.

“Timely access to reproductive health services is critical to women’s health,” Atkins said in a statement. “AB 154 will ensure that no woman has to travel excessively long distances or wait for long periods in order to obtain an early abortion.”

The measure was one of eight bills signed by the governor Wednesday that involved women’s health, including legislation to promote breastfeeding.

Neither Brown nor his staff would comment on his signing the controversial bill, which extends the ability to perform abortions by vacuum aspiration techniques to nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives and physician’s assistants.

The measure requires the non-physicians to complete specified training and comply with standardized medical protocols.

“It’s very disappointing, particularly from a women’s health standpoint,” Wynette Sills, executive director of the Coalition for Women and Children, said of the governor’s signing of the bill. “He has put the profits of the abortion industry above the health and well-being of women and children.”

Republican lawmakers opposed the bill, arguing that it would lower the standard of medical care for women.

The measure was supported by the California Medical Association and the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Project of Los Angeles County. The California Women’s Health Alliance said the bill was needed because more than half of California counties “do not have an accessible abortion provider,” the group wrote to lawmakers.

Opponents included the California Catholic Conference and the Traditional Values Coalition. The group Concerned Women for America of California, wrote to legislators that allowing non-physicians supervise abortions “reduces patient safety.”