Senate Leader Atkins’ Legislation to Expand Reproductive Care Training, Widen Abortion Access Passed by Legislature, Heads to Governor for Signature
SACRAMENTO – Today, Senate Bill 385 passed out of the California State Assembly on a 58-15 vote, marking its final approval by the Legislature. The bill, authored by Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego), would expand and modernize reproductive care training for physician assistants, increasing and reinforcing the abortion provider workforce in California.
“Over a year after Roe v Wade was overturned, and as states across the nation continue to further restrict abortion access, the need for trained providers in California becomes increasingly urgent,” Pro Tem Atkins said. “We need to find more ways to expand our provider workforce. By extending aspiration abortion training to Physician Assistants – who are highly skilled and integral to reproductive health care in California – we easily expand our provider workforce, and improve access for those seeking services in California, and anyone coming from out of state.”
SB 385 would better align abortion training to physician assistants’ scope of practice and clear pathways for physician assistants to meet requirements to perform aspiration abortions. Current law allows physician assistants to provide abortion aspirations when a physician is not physically present. SB 385 would clarify in statute that physician assistants may perform aspiration abortions without the direct supervision of a physician after a physician evaluates their clinical competency, similarly to how competency is verified for other medical training.
The bill intends to widen access to abortion services by increasing the number of practitioners available to provide this critically needed care, further strengthening and expanding access to reproductive care in California, while also lifting up a workforce of skilled PAs with more opportunities to care for their patients.
SB 385 would apply the same training standards to physician assistants that Pro Tem Atkins’ previous bill, SB 1375 established for nurse practitioners and certified nurse-midwives, allowing them to provide first trimester abortions within the scope of their clinical and professional training. SB 1375, which went into effect earlier this year, followed Pro Tem Atkins’ AB 154, which became law in 2013 and allowed qualifying advanced practice providers to provide first trimester abortions.
SB 385 is one of 17 bills proposed by the Legislative Women’s Caucus, in partnership with the California Future of Abortion Council, in their 2023 bill package on reproductive justice and abortion rights.
Last year, Pro Tem Atkins authored a constitutional amendment, SCA 10, to enshrine the right to abortion and contraceptives in California. A majority of California voters approved the amendment in November as Prop 1, further solidifying California’s standing as a nationwide leader on reproductive rights.
Senate Bill 385 previously passed out of the California State Senate on a 28-8 vote. The bill now moves to Governor Newsom’s desk for his signature.
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.