California Stops Bill Allowing Non-Doctor Abortions

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 26, 2012   |   6:32PM   |   Sacramento, CA

A bill that would allow non-physicians to do abortions has been stopped, for now, in a California legislative committee after another panel approved it earlier this week.

On Tuesday, SB 1338 was voted out of the Senate Public Safety Committee on a party line vote with Democrats approving and Republicans voting no. But, today, the measure to allow nurses to kill unborn children through vacuum-suction abortions has been stopped in a Democrat-controlled panel on a surprising vote.

SB 1338 by Democrat Senator Christine Kehoe of San Diego failed today on a 4-4 vote in the nine-member Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee. Voting no were Juan Vargas (Democrat), Lou Correa (Democrat), Mark Wyland (Republican) and Bill Emmerson (Republican.) Republican Tony Strickland was absent for the vote. Voting yes on SB 1338 were the four remaining Democrats: Curren Price, Ellen Corbett, Ed Hernandez, and Gloria Negrete McLeod.

“It’s a pleasant surprise to see pro-life votes from Democrat legislators who have a bad habit of voting pro-abortion,” said Randy Thomasson, president of, a pro-life group.

He said, “We commend Senators Juan Vargas and Lou Correa for voting against this dangerous expansion of the torture and killing of children through horrific suction abortions. It’s amazing what pro-life Catholics, by aggressively lobbying professing Catholic Democrat legislators who aspire to new political offices, can do in an election year.”

The deadline for sending bills to the next chamber is tomorrow but the bill was granted reconsideration and is set to come up for another vote in early May.

The Sacramento Bee provides more details on the vote:

A narrowed version of the bill, which would allow only 41 clinicians trained under a pilot program to continue performing the procedure after this year, failed in the Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee on a 4-4 vote. Democratic Sens. Juan Vargas and Lou Correa joined Republicans in opposing the bill. One member, Republican Sen. Tony Strickland, was absent for the vote.

The bill was amended this week as part of a deal Kehoe reached with the California Nurses Association, which opposed changing the law before the pilot program wraps up later this year and has its study results peer-reviewed. Kehoe said at the committee hearing that she hoped to continue talking with stakeholders about an agreement to restore the bill’s original intent.

Supporters say allowing more trained providers to perform the procedure will give women early access to abortions from providers they already know and trust, noting that some women in rural and medically under-served communities must travel hours to receive an abortion. They say results of the multiyear pilot program, which is set to expire in September, show it is safe for non-doctors who are properly trained to do the procedure.

Critics testifying at the committee hearing as well as some committee members questioned the procedure’s safety, pressing supporters about what the possible complications are and whether there is enough evidence to expand the pilot program statewide.

“I just think we don’t know enough about it,” said Sen. Mark Wyland, R-Solana Beach.

The measure would allow non-physicians to perform vacuum-aspiration abortions even though the California Nurses Association, which has supported abortion in the past, opposes the legislation.



The California Nurses Association has come out in opposition to the bill in its current form, airing concerns about putting the practice and training processes into law before the UC San Francisco study is complete. CNA governmental relations director Bonnie Castillo said while her organization believes the study will find that allowing the professionals covered by the bill to perform the procedure is safe, the change in law is “premature at best.”

“It is not that we are opposed to nurse practitioners performing early first-trimester aspiration abortions. However, we do respect the fact that we need to ensure that the integrity of the study and that process be completed before determining the next appropriate steps,” she said.During the prior hearing, numerous pro-abortion organizations spoke in favor, and several pro-life groups and individuals spoke in opposition to the measure during committee consideration, including California Pro-Life Council director Brian Johnston.

Johnston said he was appalled at the intentional distortion by the Planned Parenthood representative who stated that only doctors were originally allowed to do abortion in California only for safety-sake, but now, “technology has changed”; and therefore abortion is safer for non-physicians to perform this form of invasive medical practice.

“A very dishonest presentation, as aspiration abortion is not part of any “new” technology (like RU 486),” Johnston said.

Setting aside his remarks, Johnston clarified that while there may indeed be new ways of doing abortion, vacuum aspiration was certainly not one of them, and he then described Bernard Nathanson’s concerns about the inherent dangers of the practice. Nathanson had been the founder of the National Abortion Rights Action League and later admitted the group lied about the number of women dying from illegal abortions — having inflated the statistics.

Johnston’s comments about Nathanson alarmed the pro-abortion chair of the committee, Sen. Loni Hancock, as it specifically impinged on public safety and Johnston said she did not want the dangers, or the methods of the actual procedure discussed or described.

Johnston also offered articles from the Los Angeles Times, describing how even trained surgeons have botched the risky procedure. Vice-Chair Senator Joel Anderson attempted to ask a relevant question when Senator Hancock gaveled Johnston down, but the Chair refused to allow any further discussion of that matter.

Pro-life groups are urging California residents to call and oppose the bill by going to

Ron Prentice of the California Family Council provided more information to LifeNews about the upcoming vote.

“SB 1338 would allow nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and midwives to perform aspiration (suction) abortions in California. Never before, until now, has any state purposed to decrease the standard of care for women in order to expand the practice of abortion,” Prentice said. “In a day when a majority of Americans seek to limit the number of abortions, the leadership of the California Legislature seeks to expand access to abortion by decreasing the extent and quality of training required to perform an abortion.”

Prentice says SB 1338 would change the definition of abortion to void the terms of “surgical” and “nonsurgical” abortion and he said the change is due to aspiration abortion being considered surgery; midwives, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants are not licensed or trained to perform surgical procedures.

“In the case of complications, the absence of a physician can be harmful and possibly deadly for the woman,” Prentice said. “Physicians and surgeons are unwilling to perform abortions for good reasons. Many of them find that abortion is antithetical to the practice of medicine.”

“The bill claims to serve women by providing services in close proximity. However, less serious medical procedures require the commitment of time and travel,” he continued. “The language of “choice” disguises the seriousness of the abortion decision. Abortion is a legal “choice,” but a choice that takes the life of an innocent preborn baby.”