Bill to allow non-physicians to perform certain first-trimester abortions advancing in California

By Dave Andrusko

Assemblymember Toni Atkins

Assemblymember Toni Atkins

You can almost hear the pride in the pro-abortionists’ voices. While other states are enacting laws “to limit a woman’s access to abortion care,” California is on the brink of going in the opposite direction, according to San Diego Assemblymember Toni Atkins. Atkins is the author of AB 154 which would widen the pool of those who can perform some first-trimester abortions to include physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and nurse midwives.

Assembly Bill 154 would allow these non-physicians to perform early-term surgical “aspiration” abortions. (These personnel are already allowed to administer chemical abortifacients.) According to the Coast News, the measure is “nearing Senate floor for final legislative approval Aug. 19.”

“California has a long history of supporting access to comprehensive reproductive health care,” Atkins said, “including abortion, and yet, even in California, almost half of the state’s counties do not have an accessible abortion provider.”

Where to begin when there is so much that is either left out or misleading and flat-out wrong? How about what IS an aspiration abortion?

Although obliquely described in news accounts, what happens is that a powerful suction tube with a sharp cutting edge is inserted into the womb through the dilated cervix. The suction dismembers the body of the developing baby and tears the placenta from the wall of the uterus, sucking the baby’s remains into a collection bottle.

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How about public opinion, which is conveniently glossed over? Here’s how a story that ran in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ newspaper last month began:

“By greater than a 2-1 margin, California voters oppose Assembly Bill 154, a state measure that would relax medical standards that currently require surgical abortions to be performed by a physician and would instead allow first trimester abortions to be performed by physician assistants, nurse practitioners and nurse midwives.

“In a recent poll of California voters conducted by Smith-Johnson Research of Sacramento, nearly 65 percent of voters either strongly opposed or opposed the idea of allowing nurse practitioners and physician assistants to conduct abortions, while 29 percent favored or strongly favored such a law.

“By an even greater margin (76-18), voters rejected the notion of also giving nurse midwives the ability to provide abortions. The ‘oppose’ vote, said Ned Dolejsi, executive director of the California Catholic Conference, cut across all demographics — men, women, African-Americans, Asians, Hispanics, Democrats, Republican, Independents.”

What about that “access” problem? California “has one-third of the nation’s abortion providers and its abortion rate is 27 percent, far higher than the national average,” wrote Margaret A. Bengs in an op-ed for the Daily News. Moreover, “The bill’s advocates claim that because some counties don’t have an abortion provider, women must drive ‘long distances’ to get abortions, but only 1 percent of women live in those counties, according to the Guttmacher Institute.”

What is the justification for allowing these non-physicians to perform “aspiration abortions?” It’s a state pilot program created in 2007 (and recently extended to next January). Under it, 8,000 aspiration abortions have been provided by non-doctors.

NRL News Today has written about the program on multiple occasions and in one analysis by Dr. Randall K. O’Bannon, critiqued a study appearing in the “American Journal of Public Health” which claimed that first trimester surgical or suction aspiration abortions can be done just as safely by nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, and physician assistants as they can be by doctors.

Suffice it to say that is not true. To name just one reason it is not as safe, as a group, the number of complications for the [non-physicians] were almost exactly twice (100) what they were for the abortionists (52).

One final thought that brings this discussion home in a powerful way—and from a pro-abortion source–but it is important enough to merit being the topic of a separate post. (See “A Tone-deaf and Tin-Eared ‘abortion access activist.’”)

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