A bill to increase the number of nurse practitioners allowed to perform abortions without physician supervision was announced on Thursday, becoming the latest piece of legislation designed to increase abortion access in California.
Senate Bill 1375, authored by Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), would allow nurse practitioners that receive proper training to perform first trimester abortions without an attending doctor. The bill would expand the AB 154 law, which was also introduced by Atkins when she was an Assemblywoman and signed by then-Governor Jerry Brown in 2013. AB 154 allowed nurse practitioners as well as certified midwives and physician assistants to perform abortions with training and doctor supervision.
However, nine years later the abortion landscape in both the United States and in California has changed. Several states, led by Texas, have introduced laws restricting abortions. With other states also looking at more restrictions, and the Supreme Court poised to possibly overturn Roe v. Wade in the near future, California lawmakers are quickly looking into making California into an abortion sanctuary state.
While California being an abortion sanctuary state would bring in more tourists and taxes from an increased number of women looking for a safe place to receive the procedure, the very idea of it increasing abortions has also brought many Californians to oppose such a plan based on legal and moral grounds.
Despite the opposition, California is busy preparing for a likely influx of performed abortions. Measures for abortion group and abortion infrastructure funding, as well as other proposed legislation in addition to SB 1375, would increase the number of places prepared to perform abortions and increase the number of people who can perform them. While there are 30,000 nurse practitioners in California as of 2022, it is unknown how many would be certified and approved in time for the first influxes should more abortion restrictions come up in other parts of the country.
“As states like Texas and others start to restrict further abortion, it just makes sense that women are going to find other places to go. California will be one of those states,” said Senator Atkins on Thursday. She also added that other bills are currently in the works to help tie together funding, adding that “You will see a bill that tries to set up a framework for where we can do that and take private dollars.”
The latest abortion expansion bill in the legislature
While nurse practitioner groups said they are ready if the bill becomes law, and support already being signaled from many other lawmakers, several groups also came out against SB 1375 on Thursday, including the California Family Council.
“Atkins’ bill is a tragic example of the legislators putting abortion numbers above abortion safety and putting ideology above patients,” said California Family Council president Jonathan Keller. “We are essentially treating abortion like no other health care service. We’re not flying people from poor states to California to get heart transplants.”
Others gave a more middle-of-the-road view on Thursday, with many hoping that Californians themselves should be deciding on abortions fate in California and not left to lawmakers and others.
“A proposition that covers all of these, say a California abortion sanctuary state, would be ideal in this situation,” remarked Kylie Hirsch, a Philadelphia-based lawyer who has assisted in abortion cases nationwide, including California. “Texas is changing what a lot of states are doing, and the Supreme Court may give a firm ruling on abortion as soon as this summer. This is all influencing those against abortion, including in usually abortion-friendly states like California. So, honestly, anything the legislature does there might get more opposition than they thought they would. Why not leave it up to the people? That cuts past any and all biases on both sides in the legislature to a more direct vote. But it may also prove to be difficult too.”
More abortion-expanding measures are expected to come forward in California in the coming months in preparation for out-of-state tourists seeking abortions.