Brown signs California law expanding who can perform abortions

File: Gov. Jerry Brown.
File: Gov. Jerry Brown.
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Nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives and physician assistants in California will be allowed to perform a type of early abortion under legislation signed Wednesday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The bill by Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, would let those professionals perform what are known as aspiration abortions during the first trimester. The method involves inserting a tube and using suction to terminate a pregnancy.

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Oregon, Montana, Vermont and New Hampshire already allow nurse practitioners to perform those abortions. Previous California law allowed nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives and physicians assistants to administer medicine to induce an abortion.

Supporters, including the Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, said expanding who can perform surgical abortions would provide better health care for women.

"Timely access to reproductive health services is critical to women's health," Atkins said in a statement Wednesday. "AB154 will ensure that no woman has to travel excessively long distances or wait for long periods in order to obtain an early abortion."

Brown announced his approval of the bill along with several others related to women's health care. AB154 will go into effect on Jan. 1.

Republican lawmakers who opposed the legislation argued that allowing non-doctors to perform surgical abortions would increase risks to patients.

Under a state pilot program created in 2007, 8,000 aspiration abortions have been provided by non-doctors. Data from the program showed both doctors and non-doctors performing the procedures with complication rates below 2 percent, according to a legislative analysis of the bill.

The new law also requires non-doctors seeking to perform abortions to receive special training.