By Maggie Crosby, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Northern California
Across the country we're seeing ongoing attacks on access to reproductive health care. The Guttmacher Institute released data last week detailing that just a few months into 2012, hundreds of provisions to restrict abortion access have been introduced in state legislatures around the country. Several have already been enacted. Here in California, it's vitally important that our state legislature move in the opposite direction and continue its role as a national leader in ensuring that women have access to reproductive health care.
State Sen. Christine Kehoe introduced S.B. 1338, which would remove barriers to care by allowing nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, and physician assistants to perform early abortions after completing thorough training. An extensive study conducted by the University of California San Francisco showed that these trained medical professionals provide this care as safely as doctors.
Roughly half of California's counties lack an accessible abortion provider. As a result, many women delay treatment because they have to travel long distances or raise money for transportation and services. Consider the story of Jane, a single mom living near Lake Tahoe. She was not able to obtain an abortion at her local provider. Instead she had to take Amtrak to San Francisco to have an abortion. Because of the train schedule, she arrived the day before her appointment and had no place to stay. She spent her first night in the hospital's bathroom, saving her money for food. No one should face these kinds of hurdles to access a safe and legal medical procedure.
The Safe and Early Access bill would remove these barriers to care by allowing specially trained health professionals to provide early, safe abortion services in the communities they serve. It would also help overcome other barriers such as long wait times for appointments that woman in urban areas face when seeking health care services.
Most women already receive basic reproductive health care from clinicians like nurse practitioners. And these clinicians currently provide medication abortions as well as services like vasectomy and colonoscopy.
Passing this bill would allow women in every part of California to receive early, safe abortion care from providers they already know and trust,in their own communities.
Affirming the importance Californians place on protecting women's reproductive health and rights, March 2012 polling by the Public Policy Institute of California showed overwhelming public support for legal abortion. It's time to take thenext step and ensure that these rights are a reality for all women in our state.
Take action today to help pass the Safe and Early Access bill.