WHAT THE BILLS WOULD DO
Two bills from Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins seek to close remaining gaps in California’s abortion protection and access network.
The first, SB 385, would allow trained physician assistants to conduct surgical abortions without direct supervision by a physician. It also would expand training options for physician assistants who want to learn how to perform abortions.
The second measure, SB 487, would prohibit health insurers and the state from penalizing medical providers who have been sanctioned in other states for performing abortions, gender-affirming care or procedures that are otherwise legal in California. Current law requires the state to automatically suspend Medi-Cal providers that have lost their license in other states or federal jurisdictions. The proposed law would not prevent the state from taking action in instances where providers lost their out-of-state license due to conduct that is illegal in California.
WHO SUPPORTS THEM
Both measures are supported by the California Women’s Caucus, which has helped spearhead dozens of abortion protection measures since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year. They are also supported by Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California and the Future of Abortion Council.
Attorney General Rob Bonta and the California chapter of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists support the physician assistant measure.
WHO IS OPPOSED
The Right to Life League opposes both measures, while the California Catholic Conference opposes the loosening of physician assistant regulations. Notably, the Physician Assistant Board of California opposed SB 385 because it increases training requirements for physician assistants and interferes with scope of practice agreements between physician assistants and supervising doctors.
WHY IT MATTERS
Atkins, a Democrat from San Diego, has been a proponent of abortion rights for many years and a leading figure in California’s drive to become an abortion “safe haven”. A 2013 law made it possible for physician assistants to perform abortions, but few providers pursued it due to limited training options and burdensome regulations. SB 385 seeks to remove those barriers.
California lawmakers also are watching how other states are cracking down on abortion and health care for transgender people. They seek to protect doctors who are penalized for providing services in other states that are considered legal in California.
GOVERNOR’S CALL ✅
Newsom signed SB 385 into law on Sept. 8 without comment. He signed SB 487 on Sept. 27, along with several other reproductive health care bills. “Radical politicians continue their all-out assault on women’s health care with dangerous and deadly consequences,” he said in a statement. “The right to an abortion is enshrined in California’s constitution. We will continue to protect women and health care workers who are seeking and providing basic care.”