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Atkins' Bill expanding abortion access heads to Newsom's desk

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins and state Sen. Marty Block leave a meeting of the La Mesa-Foothills Democratic Club, Jan. 6, 2016.
Nicholas McVicker
Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (center) leaves a meeting of the La Mesa-Foothills Democratic Club, Jan. 6, 2016.

A bill penned by Senate Pro Tempore Toni Atkins, D- San Diego — which would allow California qualified nurse practitioners to perform first-trimester abortions without a supervising physician — passed the state Legislature Tuesday and is headed to Gov. Gavin Newsom's desk.

Senate Bill 1375 passed by a vote of 31-9 and is a component of several reproductive health bills introduced this year by the California Legislative Women's Caucus.

"As judges and lawmakers across the country continue to throw pregnant women into impossible and perilous positions, I am proud that California is resolutely moving in the opposite direction," Atkins said. "Abortion is health care — period. And like other medical decisions, it is a private conversation between patients and their health care providers.

"By expanding the number of nurse practitioners who can perform first trimester abortions, SB 1375 would give more people the ability to get the timely, essential care they need from a provider they know and trust," she added. "We need to do everything we can to ensure abortion care is not only protected, but expanded in California."

California's 2022-23 budget includes more than $200 million in reproductive rights investments. Atkins also led efforts to author a constitutional amendment to explicitly protect the right to abortion and contraception in the California State Constitution. SCA 10 was passed by the Legislature on June 27 and will go before voters in November as Proposition 1.

SB 1375 follows work Atkins did in 2013 on Assembly Bill 154, which allows nurse practitioners to provide first-trimester abortions under the supervision of a doctor. In 2020, Assemblyman Jim Wood, D-Santa Rosa, authored AB 890, which created opportunities for qualifying nurse practitioners to provide patient care without doctor supervision.

SB 1375, if signed by Newsom, would unite the two laws by "allowing qualified nurse practitioners to perform first trimester abortions within the scope of their clinical and professional education and training without the supervision of a physician," a statement from Atkins' office read.

"California is facing a serious doctor shortage that is only anticipated to worsen over the next 10 years," Atkins said. "It would leave countless women and families at great risk, but there is a solution in front of us — nurse practitioners.

"We have a workforce of trained and experienced nurse practitioners across the state who are ready to help fill the provider gap," she continued. "With SB 1375, we can ensure more patients have access the quality, affordable reproductive care they need and deserve."

Local Republican Senators Pat Bates and Brian Jones voted no on the bill, while Democrat Ben Hueso voted yes.

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