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Opponents Want To Stop California From Making It Easier To Get Abortions

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California has been bucking national trends and actually expanding access to abortions at a time when most states are doing just the opposite. But now abortion opponents are hoping that voters will overturn those recent laws at the ballot box next year.

This fall Gov. Jerry Brown signed two bills that eased rules for abortion clinics. Clinics used to have a different set of rules for building standards and personnel than primary care clinics, which some said were burdensome and outdated. Brown signed a bill so that abortion clinics wouldn't have to follow the stricter rules. The second bill was more controversial, which allows nurses and nurse-midwives to perform certain kinds of abortions (an aspiration abortion) that only doctors had been able to provide before. Proponents said it would allow women in rural California to get easier access to abortions.

At the time, many took note that California was bucking the trend of the rest of the country, which was restricting abortion. Toni Atkins, a state assemblywoman, told The New York Times, "We are trending in a different direction, and we’re very proud of it. California has a strong history of support for reproductive health care for women."

But now abortion opponents are fighting back against both of those laws. They filed a referendum against both bills (here and here) with Secretary of State Debra Bowen.

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Opponents said that they're worried about women's health. When the bill was signed last month, Gerald Wilkerson, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, told City News Service, "Physician assistants, nurse practitioners and nurse-midwives—with eight weeks training—can now perform first trimester abortions in primary care clinics not designed for surgery. Most of their clients will be women and girls who are poor, whereas women and girls with means will seek out physicians with surgical skills and hospital admitting privileges for their abortions."

Some opponents claimed the procedures would be more dangerous than skydiving, but a UC San Francisco study said that the rate of complications by non-physicians was only slightly higher and not "clinically significant."

Opponents of the laws have until January 7 to collect a little over a half million signatures in order to qualify for the November 2014 ballot. It's worth noting that California voters have shot down other attempts at restricting abortion access. In 2008, the same year that voters passed Prop. 8 banning gay marriage, 52 percent of voters shot down a bill (Prop. 4) that requiring minors who wanted an abortion to notify their parents. In 2006, a similar bill (Prop. 85) was shot down by 54 percent, and in 2006, another similar bill (Prop. 73) 52.8 percent.