Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill into law on Sept. 22 that allows not just doctors, but also nurse practitioners and other clinicians to perform non-surgical abortions in California.
The bill, Senate Bill 623, is highly anticipated by Californians in a time where medical care is not affordable for all, nor is reproductive health care accessible for all women.
According to the Los Angeles Times, half of California counties do not have a physician who regularly gives abortions — one alarming problem the bill aims to tackle. The policies introduced by SB 623 are a step in the right direction for providing statewide access to abortions across all socioeconomic classes.
A low income can result in an inability to afford condoms or abortions, which can lead to accidental pregnancies. People don’t often think about the effect financial difficulties have on pregnancy rates, but there is a correlation between the two.
By allowing people of lower incomes access to abortions and birth control, SB 623 sheds light on a growing issue and becomes a stepping stone in solving the problem. Perhaps lower income households in California, with growing access to certified abortion specialists, will have fewer unplanned children.
Giving non-physicians — nurse practitioners, physician assistants and certified nurse midwives — the right to perform abortions might also allow some women to receive abortions before they have access to a doctor. And earlier access to medical resources means fewer complications and better results.
Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union and many other pro-choice groups support the change in access, but there are also many opposing forces, such as the California Catholic Conference and the California Right to Life Committee, that criticize the bill for expediting access to abortions.
Another major criticism is that allowing less-trained professionals to perform abortions will potentially cause unsafe medical procedures. Yet on Aug. 30, Yahoo! cited studies concluding abortions are just as safe when performed by trained nurse practitioners, midwives and physician assistants as when doctors perform them. Researchers compared first-trimester abortion complications and side effects from abortions performed by doctors versus those from abortions performed by trained practitioners and found no differences in the complications.
In light of the more than 100 abortion-restrictive state measures that have been passed in the last year, SB 623 — as a measure that promotes rather than restricts access — indicates that abortion continues to be a hot-button, controversial issue that is not widely agreed upon.
The decision, however, to terminate a pregnancy is an incredibly personal one that should be treated as such.
Not to mention, the freedom to choose to have an abortion still remains a legal right that should be protected. Without certified officials who can help all citizens of all incomes to exercise this right, what good is having liberties at all?
Brown set a national example by signing SB 623 and protecting not only women’s right to choice, but also their access to quality reproductive health care. If citizens of any socioeconomic group possess a certain right, they must also have access to quality facilities in which they are able to realistically exercise this right.
Currently, only 11 states allow non-physicians to perform abortions. Hopefully, California’s addition to this number will convince the rest of the nation of the benefits of widespread access and protection of reproductive rights.
Morgan Greenwald is a freshman majoring in neuroscience and French.