California’s Senate passed a bill to permit nurse-midwives and others to perform some types of abortions now done only by doctors.
The measure by Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins, a San Diego Democrat, passed the Senate 25 to 11. The bill now goes back to the Assembly, which passed it in May, to ratify amendments before going to Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat.
If signed, California would allow abortions by midwives, physician assistants and nurse practitioners in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Four others states permit non-physician abortions: Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon and Vermont, according to a University of California, San Francisco, study. Thirty-nine states require a licensed physician.
“All women should have timely access to reproductive health care regardless of whether they live in urban or rural areas and without excessive expense or travel,” Atkins said in a statement. The bill “will help fill the gap created by the fact that over half of California’s counties lack an abortion provider.”
The California bill bucks a national trend as states such as Texas and North Carolina have passed restrictions on abortion providers.
While the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade struck down many state laws restricting abortion, statutes vary across the U.S. A flurry of new restrictions have been added in the past three years.
In Kansas, Governor Sam Brownback, a Republican, signed legislation April 19 that bans abortions on the basis of fetal gender, declares that life begins at fertilization and prohibits public funding for abortions.
In North Dakota, Republican Governor Jack Dalrymple signed a law in March making it a felony for a doctor to perform a nonemergency abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, with no exceptions for victims of rape or incest.
North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, a Republican, signed a law passed in July to make clinics meet structural requirements similar to those for outpatient surgical centers. Republicans said the measure would make clinics safer while opponents said it was an effort to deny access.
Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry signed a law last month that bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and requires the state’s 42 abortion clinics to meet standards similar to those for outpatient surgical centers.