Bucking the national trend of passing increasingly draconian and not-based-in-medical-reality restrictions on abortion, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law on Wednesday a measure to allow nurses, midwives and physicians assistants to perform early abortions. By broadening the pool of available medical professionals able to perform the procedure, the new law will greatly expand women's access to abortion care, particularly in rural areas where providers can be few and far between.
It is the only law passed this year that will actually expand access to abortion. By contrast, and as noted by the New York Times, there have been 68 laws passed during 2013 to limit women's access to abortion care or shutter providers.
The practice of allowing nurses and other licensed medical professionals to perform abortions was demonstrated to be safe in a six-year research project conducted by the University of California San Francisco; the researchers, at the conclusion of the study, endorsed the adoption of the new policy. Currently, Washington, Montana, Vermont and New Hampshire also allow nurse practitioners to perform early abortions.
“We are trending in a different direction, and we’re very proud of it,” Toni Atkins, the state assemblywoman who wrote the bill, told the New York Times. “California has a strong history of support for reproductive health care for women.”
“This is an issue of accessibility,” Atkins added. “California is a very large state, and more than half the counties don’t have an abortion provider.”
In fact, according to data from the Guttmacher Institute, 87 percent of American counties lack an abortion provider, so the problem is not just limited to California.
Reproductive rights advocates have applauded the move, with Cecil Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund calling the new law an "important step toward ensuring politics and geography cannot interfere with the medical decisions."
“California is leading the way for the rest of the country, showing that this is not the time to go backwards on access to safe and legal abortion," she continued. "Today almost half of California counties don’t have an accessible abortion provider, and thanks to this new law, access to abortion for women in rural and underserved communities will be greatly expanded."