Senate Leader Atkins’ Bill to Expand Abortion Services, Reproductive Care Passes Legislature
SACRAMENTO – With access to abortion care more critical than ever, the California State Senate today passed Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins’ (D-San Diego) SB 1375, legislation to allow qualified nurse practitioners to provide abortions without the supervision of a physician. The bill passed by a vote of 31-9.
“As judges and lawmakers across the country continue to throw pregnant women into impossible and perilous positions, I am proud that California is resolutely moving in the opposite direction,” said Pro Tem Atkins. “Abortion is health care—period. And like other medical decisions, it is a private conversation between patients and their health care providers. By expanding the number of nurse practitioners who can perform first trimester abortions, SB 1375 would give more people the ability to get the timely, essential care they need from a provider they know and trust. We need to do everything we can to ensure abortion care is not only protected, but expanded in California.”
SB 1375, which now awaits Governor Gavin Newsom’s action, is a critical component of a comprehensive package of reproductive health bills introduced this year by the California Legislative Women’s Caucus. Two of those bills, SB 245, authored by Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach) and AB 1666, authored by Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda), have already been signed into law. The 2022-23 state budget also includes more than $200 million in key reproductive rights investments. Pro Tem Atkins also led efforts to author a constitutional amendment to explicitly protect the right to abortion and contraception in the California State Constitution. SCA 10 was passed by the Legislature on June 27 and will go before voters in November as Proposition 1.
SB 1375 follows up on the work Pro Tem Atkins did on AB 154 in 2013 to allow qualifying nurse practitioners to provide first trimester abortions under the supervision of a physician. In 2020, Assemblymember Jim Wood (D- Santa Rosa) then authored AB 890, which created opportunities for qualifying nurse practitioners to provide patient care without doctor supervision. SB 1375 seeks to unite the two laws, by allowing qualified nurse practitioners to perform first trimester abortions within the scope of their clinical and professional education and training without the supervision of a physician.
“California is facing a serious doctor shortage that is only anticipated to worsen over the next 10 years. It would leave countless women and families at great risk, but there is a solution in front of us—nurse practitioners,” Pro Tem Atkins said. “We have a workforce of trained and experienced nurse practitioners across the state who are ready to help fill the provider gap. With SB 1375, we can ensure more patients have access the quality, affordable reproductive care they need and deserve.”
A University of California San Francisco study released in 2013 found that first trimester abortions performed by nurse practitioners are just as safe as procedures provided by physicians. Nationwide, 13 states currently allow trained nurse practitioners to provide aspiration abortions, and of those, nine allow qualified nurse practitioners to practice the procedure without doctor supervision.
This legislation is in keeping with the California Future of Abortion Council’s recommendation to address the growing shortage of health care professionals. A projection by the California Future of Health Workforce Commission, a statewide group of senior leaders across multiple sectors, found that within the next decade, California will face a shortfall of more than 4,100 primary care clinicians. That would have a disproportionate impact on the seven million Californians living in counties already experiencing shortfalls of primary care, dental care, or mental health care providers. The majority of populations in those federally-designated areas are Latino, Black, and Native American.
SB 1375 would widen access to and affordability of abortion services and healthcare, thereby increasing the number of nurse practitioners able to provide critically-needed care, especially in marginalized and lower-income communities.
Toni G. Atkins is President pro Tempore of the California Senate. Having previously served as Speaker of the California Assembly, she began her tenure in the Senate in 2016. As Senator for District 39, she represents the cities of San Diego, Coronado, Del Mar and Solana Beach. Website of President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins: www.senate.ca.gov/Atkins