The XX Factor

Jerry Brown Bucks the National Trend: Nurses and Midwives Can Now Perform Abortions in California

Jerry Brown just signs progressive legislation all day long.

Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

With so many states moving to make safe abortion more difficult, if not impossible, for many women to get, California officially made a big move in the other direction Wednesday. Gov. Jerry Brown, who is on a roll lately, signed a new law allowing nurse practitioners, midwives, and physician assistants to perform first-trimester aspiration abortions, a procedure previously restricted to doctors. In other news, many punk rock fans who used to laugh at the lyrics of the Dead Kennedys’ “California Über Alles” are considering writing apology letters to Brown. (Still a good song.) 

According to MSNBC’s Irin Carmon, low-income women are more likely to turn to nurse practitioners and physician assistants for medical care than to gynecologists. Because of this, it will be easier for these women to simply find an abortion provider, especially for earlier abortions, which are safer and more affordable. 

There are exactly zero reasons to be concerned that this is unsafe. Even though anti-choicers in other states have been busy propping up the illusion that abortion is a dangerous procedure by passing laws requiring it to be performed in ambulatory surgical centers and for doctors to have hospital admitting privileges, the reality is that aspiration abortion is a quick and easy procedure that doesn’t require making an incision. Researchers at Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) from the University of California–San Francisco, performed a six-year study in training nurse practitioners, midwives, and physician assistants to perform these abortions and found that they had complication rates similar to doctors, which are much lower than the alternative complications of unwanted childbirth

When reporting on the new law, for some reason the New York Times found it necessary to interview Brian Johnston, who is neither a medical expert nor a public health policy expert, but who runs an anti-choice group in western California. “For those who say they care about women’s health, they’re doing the opposite, reducing the medical standards for abortion,” Johnston told the paper, worrying as one does about the safety of women his website compares to Nazis committing genocide. Of course, as the ANSIRH study shows, these standards do no such thing. Abortion continues to be 14 times less deadly than childbirth