Cal­i­for­nia bucks trend on abor­tions Sharp re­ac­tions to laws ex­pand­ing women’s ac­cess

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY CH­ERYL WETZSTEIN

At a time when other states are mov­ing to re­strict abor­tion ser­vices, Cal­i­for­nia Democrats have pushed through two new laws that will per­mit non­physi­cians such as mid­wives to per­form abor­tion pro­ce­dures in the first 12 weeks and will loosen build­ing stan­dards for abor­tion clin­ics.

The laws, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, a Demo­crat, late last week, have sparked sharp re­ac­tions on both sides of the di­vide over abor­tion pol­icy.

Pro­po­nents say the laws are needed to boost ac­cess to abor­tion to women in ar­eas of the state with few or no clin­ics, but op­po­nents counter that the laws are likely to boost the num­ber of abor­tions in Cal­i­for­nia, which al­ready has the fifth-high­est abor­tion rate among states.

What is not in dis­pute is that Cal­i­for­nia has bucked the na­tional trend of en­act­ing laws re­strict­ing abor­tion: One of its new laws ac­tu­ally re­peals build­ing stan­dards that were set for abor­tion clin­ics.

“Early abor­tion ac­cess is a crit­i­cal pub­lic health is­sue,” said Demo­cratic state Assem­bly­woman Toni Atkins, lead spon­sor of AB 154, which will per­mit trained mid­wives, nurse prac­ti­tion­ers and physi­cian as­sis­tants to per­form first-trimester “as­pi­ra­tion” abor­tions. As­pi­ra­tion abor­tions re­fer to pro­ce­dures in which the fe­tus is suc­tioned out of the womb.

With more qual­i­fied providers avail­able to do early abor­tions, women in un­der­served ar­eas should be able to get early abor­tions with­out trav­el­ing “ex­ces­sively long dis­tances,” Ms. Atkins said.

More­over, if more women can get early, less-ex­pen­sive abor­tions more read­ily, there should be fewer costly, sec­ond-trimester abor­tions, a leg­isla­tive anal­y­sis said.

Physi­cians and sur­geons will still be re­quired to per­form abor­tions af­ter the first 12 weeks of a preg­nancy.

Dozens of groups, rep­re­sent­ing mid­wives, nurse prac­ti­tion­ers, physi­cian as­sis­tants and re­pro­duc­tive-jus­tice ad­vo­cates, strongly backed the law.

A six-year study from the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia San Fran­cisco “showed that spe­cially trained health pro­fes­sion­als can pro­vide high-qual­ity early abor­tion care,” said Planned Par­ent­hood Af­fil­i­ates of Cal­i­for­nia Ac­tion Funds.

Planned Par­ent­hood also cheered en­act­ment of AB 980, which re­peals out­dated and “out-of-sync” fa­cil­ity re­quire­ments for clin­ics that per­form abor­tions. Now all “pri­mary care clin­ics” will be “held to the same stan­dards,” it said.

Th­ese mea­sures “sup­port the health and well-be­ing of women in Cal­i­for­nia,” Mr. Brown said Oct. 9, when he signed th­ese and five other bills re­lated to women’s health.

Pro-life groups, how­ever, said that Cal­i­for­nia was buck­ing a na­tional trend at the state level, where some 43 other states have been set­ting what they say are “com­mon-sense” re­stric­tions on abor­tions ev­ery year.

“Re­duc­ing the med­i­cal stan­dards for abor­tion, both in the per­son­nel and the san­i­tary con­di­tions re­quired, de­fies logic for those who say they care about women,” said Anissa Smith, spokes­woman for the Cal­i­for­nia Pro-Life Coun­cil.

Ef­forts will be made to limit the mid­wife law as its reg­u­la­tions are be­ing writ­ten, and there is talk of le­gal ac­tion to stop it be­fore it goes into ef­fect Jan. 1, Brian John­ston, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Cal­i­for­nia Pro-Life Coun­cil, re­cently told Craig Roberts on KFAX-AM ra­dio in San Fran­cisco.

But as it stands, un­der the two laws, “abor­tion is go­ing to re­ally spread in Cal­i­for­nia,” Mr. John­ston said.

The clinic law will af­fect is­sues such as the width of en­trances and hall­ways, and size of treat­ment rooms, noted Ron Pren­tice, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Cal­i­for­nia Fam­ily Coun­cil. Both laws threaten to min­i­mize the se­ri­ous­ness of the abor­tion pro­ce­dure, and “place women at greater sur­gi­cal risk,” he said.

With 522 abor­tion providers, Cal­i­for­nia has one of the high­est abor­tion rates in the na­tion, with 27.6 abor­tions per 1,000 women aged 15-44 in 2008, the Guttmacher In­sti­tute said. Only four states — Delaware, New York, New Jersey and Mary­land — and the Dis­trict have higher abor­tion rates.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Assem­bly­woman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, talks with Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Tor­rance, in early Septem­ber at the Capi­tol in Sacra­mento, Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown signed Atkins bill, AB154, on Oct. 9. It passed the As­sem­bly by a 49-25 vote. The leg­is­la­tion will al­low nurse prac­ti­tion­ers, cer­ti­fied nurse mid­wives and physi­cian as­sis­tants who work in the state to per­form a type of early abor­tion.

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