The following comes from an August 28 story in Time Magazine.
Leave it to California to buck a national trend. As states across the U.S. enact new laws restricting abortion, Golden State lawmakers are on the cusp of passing legislation that could greatly expand access to the procedure by allowing nurse practitioners, physicians’ assistants and certified nurse midwives to perform first-trimester abortions. The bill passed the state senate Monday and is expected to be approved by the California assembly this week.
Pro-life groups say the new law could put women’s health at risk, though a recently published study found abortions administered by these professionals, known as advanced-practice clinicians, are as safe as those performed by physicians. Supporters used that study, conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, to help secure the bill’s passage. (Four other states — Oregon, Montana, Vermont and New Hampshire — already allow advance-practice clinicians to provide abortions or do not explicitly ban them from doing so.) Pro-choice groups, meanwhile, are heralding advancement of the California bill as an increasingly rare victory in the effort to make abortion easier to access.
The state would seem to have little need to broaden abortion access. California has more than 500 abortion providers, according to the reproductive-rights organization the Guttmacher Institute and nearly 30% of all abortion providers in the U.S. were located there in 2008, the most recent year for which data is available. The abortion rate in the state that year was 27.6 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44, 40% higher than the national average.
But those statistics don’t accurately reflect access to abortion in California, says Tracy Weitz, director of UCSF’s Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health program and lead author of the nonphysician abortion study. About half of all abortion providers in the state are hospitals that only offer the procedure in cases where fetuses have abnormalities or a mother’s health or life is at risk. Excluding these facilities, nearly half of the state’s counties currently have no abortion provider.
….If California legislators pass the bill to allow advanced-practice clinicians to perform first-trimester abortions, many are poised to step in. Some already have. In order to conduct the study on the safety of nonphysician abortions, Weitz and her fellow researchers were granted a waiver from the state allowing clinicians to perform the procedures. Working at Planned Parenthood locations and facilities in the Kaiser Permanente health system in Northern California, the clinicians were trained to provide abortions and the researchers designed a study to measure complication rates.
Of the 11,487 abortions provided between 2007 and 2011 included in the study, which was published in January in the American Journal of Public Health, 1.3% had complications. The rate of complication for advanced-practice clinicians was 1.8%; for physicians, it was 0.9%, which the study authors wrote was “clinically equivalent.” (Just six abortions in the entire study had complications that required hospital-based care.)
To read the original story, click here.