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Expanding Access to Abortion in California Could Be a Model for the Country

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March 26, 2013

By Katherine Sheldon, Co-Vice President of Choice USA at Sacramento State

This post is part of Reproductive Freedom week from the California Coalition for Reproductive Freedom

This post is part of Reproductive Freedom week from the California Coalition for Reproductive Freedom

Let us start by taking a moment on behalf of uteruses everywhere to give thanks to Roe v. Wade for allowing us to do what we want, when we want, with our bodies. Forty years after becoming law, there are still people fighting to take our rights to our own bodies away from us. Over the last two years, 135 laws have been passed across the nation restricting abortion access. This is not only physically dangerous for women, but it shows them that the government doesn’t take their health seriously.

AB 154 is a bill that will allow more medical professionals, including nurses and midwives, the ability to perform first-trimester abortions. Allowing these professionals to perform abortions increases the availability of access to a multitude of women who by other means would not have this option.

While California may be home to Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as many other highly populated cities, a large portion of the state is still rural. 52% of California’s counties don’t even have abortion providers, aside from what is offered at the local hospital, which do not always have the same services offered by abortion clinics. Some women have to travel as far as 5 hours to reach an abortion provider in their area of the state. Many times to reach these providers, women have to take unpaid time off from work, travel by bus if they do not have the luxury of having a car, and wait for long periods of time to see a doctor.  If the clinic is for some reason unable to fit them in, they have to leave and come back another day, which means another unpaid day off work, another 5 hours on a bus, and another day of waiting to see the doctor.

AB 154 would also help break down the economic and racial barriers that are currently held up by abortions laws.  92 percent of abortions take place in the first trimester but studies find that black, uninsured and low-income women continue to have less access to this care. Some women end up carrying pregnancies to term because it is too far into their pregnancy by the time they are aware they are pregnant and able to make it to the doctor to schedule an abortion. The lack of access to these services severely hinders women’s ability to make the choices they want regarding their pregnancy. They are instead presented with options that are often convenient for the individuals offering, and rarely in the best interest for the woman.

Access to abortion is not the only benefit of this bill however.  As California Women’s Health Alliance explains, “broadening the types of health professionals who can perform abortions means women can receive a wide spectrum of reproductive health care – family planning, birth control, miscarriage management, abortion, post-abortion follow up – from the same practitioner, allowing for continuity of care.” It also means that women will be able to receive their care from someone they know and trust, rather than a multitude of different people in the field. While some are perhaps hesitant about the safety of non-doctors providing abortions, a study by UCSF done over the course of six years found that “first-trimester abortions are just as safe when they are performed by professional nurses, physician assistants, and midwives as when they are performed by doctors.”  This research is imperative because it focuses not only on the services that will be offered to women, but the safety of women involved, and proves that the procedure is overwhelmingly safe in the hands of physicians or trained clinicians.

AB 154 is important for women because it not only will provide them with access to services they desperately need and have a right to, but also shows California’s stance on the importance of women’s health. Other areas of the country could use a role model on these issues right now.

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