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Bill To Expand Abortion Access Clears California Assembly

Aired 5/30/13 on KPBS News.

At a time when many states are restricting access to abortions, California may do just the opposite.

— The California Assembly has approved a bill that would allow nurse practitioners and physician assistants to perform early-term abortions. Supporters say the measure is needed to improve access in rural parts of the state.

Democratic Assemblywoman Toni Atkins represents San Diego's 78th district

Above: Democratic Assemblywoman Toni Atkins represents San Diego's 78th district

Women's health advocates say more than half of California counties don't have an abortion provider.

The bill, introduced by San Diego Assemblywoman Toni Aktins, attempts to rectify that situation. It would let nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives and physician assistants perform a type of non-surgical abortion called aspiration. It's usually done in the first trimester.

Opponents say it's too risky to allow non-physicians to perform abortions.

A recent five-year study from the University of California, San Francisco came to a different conclusion. It compared the outcomes of aspiration abortions performed by doctors with those done by non-physician practitioners. Their safety outcomes were the same, with a complication rate of less than 2 percent.

The bill to expand access to abortions now moves onto the state Senate.

California would not be the first state to allow non-physician practitioners to perform early-term abortions. Four states — Montana, Oregon, New Hampshire and Vermont — already permit it.

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