As opposition mounts, all-out effort under way to pressure California state legislators to vote for bill allowing abortions by non-physicians
Proponents of a bill that would allow non-physicians to perform abortions in California are going to extraordinary lengths to pressure the legislature in anticipation of a crucial April 26 hearing on the measure.
Late last week, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California began running radio ads in Los Angeles, San Diego and the San Francisco Bay Area targeting three Democratic senators who sit on the Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee. The committee is scheduled to take up the bill, SB 1388, on Thursday.
Among those targeted by the ads is Sen. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, a former Jesuit seminarian who has said he personally opposes abortion but has consistently supported it in his long political career.
“We voted for him,” says Planned Parenthood’s ad. “Now we need him to go to work for us.”
Both as an assemblyman and a state senator, Planned Parenthood has repeatedly given Vargas high ratings. He is currently running for Congress in California’s 51st Congressional District, which runs along the US-Mexico border in San Diego and Imperial counties.
SB 1338 would allow nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives and physician assistants to perform uterine aspiration abortions, a practice currently outlawed in California for non-physicians.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, says the measure is needed to increase the availability of abortion in areas of the state where the procedure is not readily available.
But the bill has met with some unexpected opposition, forcing repeated cancellations and rescheduling of committee hearings as Kehoe and other backers scurry to round up the votes they need before an April 27 legislative deadline for it to clear all committees.
The bill’s co-sponsors include Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, NARAL Pro-Choice California, the ACLU of California, and ACCESS to Women’s Justice.
But SB 1338 supporters apparently did not anticipate opposition from a group that is usually their ally -- the influential and politically powerful California Nurses Association. The CNA, which represents more than 86,000 nurses and nurse practitioners, has come out against the bill.
The nurses association called SB 1338 “ill-conceived and unnecessary,” and said it was “premature” because a study of the safety of allowing non-physicians to perform abortions is still under way.
Also on record in opposition to the bill is the California Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state’s bishops.
"In the name of enhancing access, convenience and cost-savings, this bill will do nothing to make abortion 'safe and rare,’” said a letter from the bishops opposing SB 1338.
In an April 21 opinion piece published in the Sacramento Bee, veteran political observer Margaret A. Bengs asked, “Why do we allow abortion to be the exception to the rule when it comes to women's health and safety?”
“You don't have to be anti-abortion to oppose this attempt to lower the standard of health care for women and girls based not on completed scientific evidence but on ideology and financial gain,” wrote Bengs.
Aspiration abortion, Bengs noted, “can cause serious complications,” among them “hemorrhage, incomplete abortions, infections, pelvic inflammatory disease that can lead to infertility and chronic pelvic pain, and failed abortion.”
Bengs said that four of the five organizations involved in the pilot study used to justify SB 1338 “are affiliates of Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider, which advertises abortions for ‘between $300 and $950,’ and stands to gain financially from the legislation.”
In addition, Bengs pointed out in her column for the Bee, “The financial conflict of interest is underscored by the fact that among the organizations funding the pilot project is the John Merck Fund, which has also given generous grants to – surprise – the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and Choice USA; the pro-choice David and Lucile Packard Foundation; and two anonymous foundations.”
SB 1338 is scheduled to be taken up first tomorrow in the Senate Public Safety Committee (because the bill provides penalties for violating the law). If it clears that committee, which is considered likely, it will then go to the Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee on April 26.