April 13, 2012 Print
State of California

California Considers Allowing Non-Physicians to Perform Abortions

by Karla Dial

On Monday, a California Senate committee will vote on a bill seeking to allow midwives, physician assistants and nurse practitioners to perform abortions — and life advocates say this weekend is the best window of opportunity to stifle the effort.

SB 1338, sponsored by Sen. Christine Kehoe of San Diego, will be coming up for a vote at 1:30 p.m. PDT in the Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee.

California is “the first state that we know of that’s ever looking at rescinding and actually decreasing the standard of care that women would be getting if they go into an abortion clinic,” said Daniel McConchie, vice president of government affairs at Americans United for Life.

That could create a ripple effect in other states.

“Midwives, physician assistants and nurse practitioners are not licensed to provide surgeries. Aspiration or suction abortions are considered surgical,” explained Ron Prentice, executive director of the California Family Council. “This bill attempts to redefine abortion in California law by calling it neither surgical nor nonsurgical. It takes out the term completely in order to allow (non-doctors) to perform this procedure.”

As the California Catholic Conference points out, physician assistants and nurse practitioners in the Golden State aren’t allowed to remove patients’ ear wax or ingrown toenails. But because minors and low-income women can have their abortions subsidized by taxpayers, Kehoe and the other sponsors of SB 1338 say allowing non-physicians to perform abortions will lower the costs.

Though the California Senate is overwhelmingly Democrat and has few pro-life members, three people on the committee — Lou Correra, Gloria Negrete McLeod and Juan Vargas — are Catholics who could be convinced of the bill’s shortcomings, Prentice said.

“It would be best to keep this bill from going any further by having these nine members vote ‘No’ on it,” he said. “This is the best opportunity to keep this bill from going to a floor vote.”

Assemblyman Brian Jones, who represents the same district as Kehoe, said, “This whole thing is cloaked in deceit.”

Though sponsors say allowing more unlicensed people to perform abortions will give women in rural areas more access to them, “I have not had one constituent come to me and say ‘Will you please make it easier for us to get abortions?’ ” he said.