Senator Kehoe's Bill Would Expand Access To Abortions In Calif. Rural Communities
April 24, 2012 1:15 p.m.
Vince Hall, Vice President of Public Affairs Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest
Related Story: Abortion Access Bill Heads To State Legislative Committees
CAVANAUGH: A San Diego state Senator supporters a bill through committees that would allow nurse practitioners to perform abortions. And we'll discuss Walmart controversies in San Diego and Mexico.
This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. It's Tuesday, April 24th. Just as a number of states around the country are enacting laws to make abortions more difficult to obtain, a proposal to expand access to abortion is making its way through committees in Sacramento. State Senator Christine Kehoe of San Diego has introduced Senate Bill 1338, which for the first time would allow health workers who are not doctors to perform nonsurgical abortions. Joining me to talk about the legislation is my guest, Vince Hall, vice president of public affairs of Planned Parenthood of the southwest. Who would be allowed to perform abortions under the provisions of this bill?
HALL: Nurse practitioners, certified nurse mid-wives, and fissions' assistants to perform aspiration procedures during the first trimester of a pregnancy. This was the result of a five year long study to demonstrate that these practitioners who are really at the top of the tier of their education level and training could safely perform first trimester aspiration abortions, which is vitally important to the women of California buzz over half of our counties don't have an abortion provider. So this bill is meant to make sure that we are able to make real the promise. Reproductive choice. People might have a constitutional right to choose, but if they don't have any practical access to a provider, the right isn't worth it.
CAVANAUGH: I was reading on your website that aspiration abortions are the most common kind of clinical abortion, early stage abortions, and they're termed in this legislation nonsurgical; is that right?
HALL: That's correct. And is there has been a misunderstanding in the past about what is a surgical procedure, and what is not. And these are nonsurgical procedures, it's one of the safest medical procedures in the country today, and a very significant percentage of women in this country, 40%, will have an abortion, and it is important that they have access to safe and legal provider who is can competently and safely provide that care, access to abortion care is becoming more and more difficult as you just pointed out in many states. And I think California is once again showing its leadership by demonstrating that we are going to respect women, we are going to respect women's choices, and we are going to do things that are in the best interests of the safety and health of women to protect their reproductive choices.
CAVANAUGH: What is the status of access to abortion here in California?
HALL: Well, as I said, over half of our counties, we have 58 counties in California, and over half of them simply don't have an abortion provider. But in general, abortion is easier to obtain in California than in other states because we are one of about 12 states where the state medicate program with no contribution at all will pay for abortion procedure for women who could not afford them. At the same time, we do more to prevent the need for abortion than any other state in the union, and we have reduced the teen pregnancy rate in California by 50% in ten years by providing acceptable and affordable contraception. We're looking at the program from two fronts, one is how do we address the root cause which is unintended pregnancy, and how do we do whatever is within our means to make sure that every pregnancy is in fact an intended pregnancy, and every child is a loved and wanted and planned for child, and that is the 2-tier approach, to make sure contraception is available, comprehensive sexed in our schools.
CAVANAUGH: Are there concerns that there could be health risks to women having abortions without a doctor present?
HALL: This is of course the point of the study that the university of California in San Francisco set out to demonstrate, and four other states have allowed these highly trained, advanced practice clinicians to provide this service for years. There has been no increase in complications, no differential from medical doctors providing the same service. We're proud to have the support of the California medical association for this legislation, and it is in fact been demonstrated through the study that these advanced clinicians can provide this service with the same level of complication as medical doctors, and in both cases, it's extremely low, and patient satisfaction has been slightly higher with the advanced clinicians providing this service, and that's a lot of speculation as to why that might be the case. But the study is very conclusive.
CAVANAUGH: As I read this legislation, the NURSE practitioners and mid-wives who would be allowed to perform these early-term nonsurgical abortions would need a specific certification.
HALL: That's right. This is not just a carte blanche authorization for everybody to perform this procedure if they are at that clinician level. There are additional protocols and training that have to be adhered to, and the safety of patients does come from. We applaud Senator Kehoe, she understands the study intimately, and she's been highly effective in reaching out to other senators and legislators to make sure they understand the importance of this legislation to the women of California.
CAVANAUGH: Speaking of reaching out to other legislators and politicians, I know that Planned Parenthood is running ads urging women here in San Diego to contact state Senator Juan Vargas to get his support for this legislation. And there are other state senators who Planned Parenthood is also agitating voters to please contact them and get them on board. Is there some reluctance? I know that Juan Vargas usually supports abortion rights legislation. Is there some problem with this particular legislation that has some politicians undecided about it?
HALL: Well, I don't think that there's a problem with the legislation. There's a certain amount of problem with the study that under lies the legislation. But I think that most elected officials would like to hear from their constituents. And when we met with Senator Vargas, he made that clear. He has been a pro-choice legislator in the state assembly and now in the Senate, and it is important for exhibit in this community who cares about women's health to call him and contact him and let him know that this is something that the community supports. In 25 other states, over 100 new laws have been enacted that restrict a woman's right to choose. It is difficult to explain how many barriers have been erected to women's reproductive options. But we here in California have an opportunity, a responsibility to show the rest of the country that we value and respect women's independent decisions and that we will do everything within our power to make sure that abortion is legal, safe, and available across the state, and that's really the intent of this legislation, and we're very hopeful. We have a critical hearing coming up in the state Senate business and professions committee this Thursday, we are hopeful that Senator Vargas will receive a lot of input from the community before that hearing.
CAVANAUGH: Brian Jones of the 77th assembly district sent out an e-mail about this legislation and it said "I feel like I was kicked in the gut" when he heard about this proposed legislation, which he says shows we're looking for ways to board more babies. How do you answer that criticism?
HALL: Well, it is unfortunately nothing short of hypocritical for somebody to criticize making abortion more accessible when they are themselves opposed to making contraception more acceptable. Assemblyman Jones is both anti-contraception and antiabortion, and it's difficult to reconcile. The abortion rate in this country is the lowest it's been since 1974. And that is because we have done such a great job in reducing unintended pregnancy through the accessibility of contraception. Of we have many long-acting contraception methods, and Planned Parenthood is committed to doing everything in its power to reduce the abortion rate by reducing the unintended pregnancy rate. We prevent over 300,000 abortions per year, which is more than all of these anti-choice advocates combined do in a day. And we're very proud to be a legal and safe provider of abortion care. We think SB38 will help us to fulfill that mission for more women in California.
CAVANAUGH: If you'd like to see that Planned Parenthood ad about this proposed legislation, you can go on our website at KPBS.org. I've been speaking with Vince Hall of Planned Parenthood of the Pacific southwest, thank you very much.
HALL: Thank you.