Southern California Public Radio is turning state Sen. Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego) into a household name. The politician has introduced SB 1501, which would allow some abortions to be performed by nurse practitioners, midwives and physician assistants.
What does the law currently stipulate?
In the introduction to Sen. Kehoe's proposed legislation, she explains that California law currently restricts the administration of abortion procedures to licensed physicians and surgeons.
What does SB 1501 seek to change?
The proposed new abortion law no longer differentiates between non-surgical and surgical abortion. It specifically opens up "abortion by medication or aspiration techniques" to be performed by licensed physicians and surgeons, as well as those who "have a valid, unrevoked, and unsuspended license or certificate obtained in accordance with some other provision of law." Specifically mentioned are the Nursing Practice Act and the Physician Assistant Practice Act, although they are not the only recognized licensing agencies.
Is California the only state that would allow some abortions to be performed by medical professionals who are not physicians?
No; in fact, there are four other states where this practice is already legal. The Los Angeles Times outlines that Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon and Vermont have decriminalized the administration of aspiration abortions by non-physicians.
Why is Sen. Kehoe introducing SB 1501?
The senator's supporters claim that "half of California's counties do not have a physician who regularly provides abortion." Identifying these counties are underserved, they argue that opening up the performance of abortion procedures to non-physicians would lead to an improvement of health care in those areas. ACCESS Women's Health Justice's executive director offers anecdotal evidence that a "mother of four had to take a 3 a.m. bus to San Francisco" to access an abortion provider.
What do proponents and critics of the California abortion bill say?
"This is the first step down the road to making it appear like it's a simple, drive-by, 15-minute diversion," a California Right to Life lobbyist told the San Diego Reader. "I think this is another situation where California is a pioneer," an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union pointed out.
How many pregnancies end in abortion in the Golden State?
Relying on 2008 figures, the Guttmacher Institute summarizes that 61 percent of pregnancies resulted in live births, whereas 24 percent ended in abortion. Between 2005 and 2008, the rate of abortions increased by 2 percent among California women.
How many abortion providers are there in California?
Figures dating back to 2008 indicate that there were 522 abortion providers in California, which is a 23 percent increase when compared to 2005. At the same time, 22 percent of California counties did not list an abortion provider; only 1 percent "of California women lived in these counties."
Sylvia Cochran is a Los Angeles area resident with a firm finger on the pulse of California politics. Talk radio junkie, community volunteer and politically independent, she scrutinizes the good and the bad from both sides of the political aisle.