California Governor Signed Law Allowing Non-Physicians to Do Abortions


I published this post last spring. I’m posting it again in response to a reader’s question. Allowing non-physicians to perform abortion is all the rage among the “reproductive health” folks. They’re introducing bills to allow this in states all around the country.

I wrote a post earlier today, Woman Sues Planned Parenthood for Forced Abortion and Medical Malpractice in which I made the following statement:

“Based on my experience with this issue, any attempts to impose regulations on abortion clinics will be met with cries of “anti-choice” and “pushing women into the back alleys again.” Even the most common-sense reforms such as requiring doctors who perform abortions to have hospital privileges at a nearby hospital, or requiring that those who perform abortions be licensed physicians, are characterized as “attacks on women’s health care” and “driving women into the back alleys.”

Abortion proponents do not want women to be given accurate information about the child they are carrying. They do not want parents of minor children to be told that their daughters are going to undergo surgery. They do not want requirements that licensed physicians perform abortions, or in the case of abortion drugs, that licensed physicians administer the drugs. They do not want the abortionists to be required to have hospital privileges. I could go on and on. Abortion proponents appear to want a caveat emptor situation so far as abortion is concerned. I do not believe that this attitude reflects concern for “health care for women” or for women’s well-being.”

One of Public Catholic’s readers asked in the comments section if I could name a state where abortions can be performed by people who are not licensed doctors.

The answer is, yes, I can.

California’s Governor Jerry Brown just recently signed a law that will allow midwives, nurses and other non-physicians to perform surgical abortions. One abortion technique that was specifically mentioned in the articles I’ve read is vacuum aspiration. According to news reports, Planned Parenthood, that self-proclaimed bastion of women’s health care, along with the California ACLU, lobbied for this legislation.

In my time as a legislator, I have had discussions with Planned Parenthood representatives who either wanted similar legislation in Oklahoma, or who were opposed to legislation that would require that doctors who run abortion clinics have hospital privileges at the hospitals in the communities where they do the abortions. I do not believe that doctors who run abortion clinics in Oklahoma are required to have hospital privileges as of now.

Also, the Reproductive Health Act which is being pushed by New York Governor Cuomo would allow abortions to be performed by “any licensed medical practitioner.” According to New York Right to Life, this would mean that medical personnel other than physicians would be allowed perform abortions. The bill is supported by Planned Parenthood, NARAL and the New York ACLU.

All these organizations claim that their motive in working to pass legislation that will allow non-doctors to perform surgery on women is to make sure that abortion is “available.” None of them mention that licensed physicians are probably more costly to employ than midwives and other non-physicians, even though one of the firms pushing for this “reform” is the largest abortion provider in America.

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  • Oregon Catholic

    That just blows me away. I can hardly believe that state medical boards would allow such a precedent to be set, allowing non-physicians to perform surgery. Maybe it’s because as a group they find abortion so distasteful they are happy to let others do it.
    My goodness, you can’t even have a tooth pulled except by a dentist.

    • pagansister

      Or if you are 5-10 years old, when those “baby teeth start coming out, a parent! :-)

    • Grimm

      Oregon, you are correct about there being a stigma on working in the abortion industry. According to Abby Johnson, former abortion clinic director and founder of the ministry to abortion industry workers “And Then There Were None,” working in the abortion industry is indeed considered disgraceful, sordid, and a blot on one’s resume by the respectable medical community. One of the aspects of the ATTWN ministry is getting past the blotted resume to find wholesome jobs for former abortion industry workers so they can leave the life and still put food on the table. Oftentimes, a hospital, doctor’s office, or clinic will simply ignore applicants with abortion industry work experience, presumably because of said stigma.

  • Fabio P.Barbieri

    This is a sign of desperation. There was talk of doing that in Britain a few years ago, though nothing came of it, but the reason was interesting: in spite of the fact that Britain is really a one-party state where abortion is concerned (thanks to the baleful influence of Margaret Thatcher, an abortionist fanatic on a level with Obama, who tainted the Conservative party till it was undistinguishable from the local section of Planned Parenthood), and that being openly against abortion would ruin your chances of a career in the National Health Service, nonetheless, there was and is an ever-decreasing supply of qualified doctors willing to perform abortions. As someone remarked at the time, young people do not become doctors for the sake of ripping up living tissues and dumping them in the sewer. I believe this is a worldwide trend; in Italy it’s so strong that whole Provinces (counties) don’t have a single qualified abortionist.

  • Jessica Hoff

    Rebecca, may you be richly blessed for your consistent thought for the unborn and your many efforts to bring to light the threats our selfish society makes to them.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Thank you Jessica.

  • Oregon Catholic

    It occurred to me that there are layers to this effort to allow non-physicians to do abortions that may slow it down or stop it. For one thing, the obvious default person would be a nurse, probably a midwife or nurse practitioner. I think it is going to have a hard time getting past state nursing boards and legislatures that control changes to the various state nurse practice acts. The governors can sign laws but implementing them is another process. I sincerely hope nursing will not take this on.

    I second Jessica’s blessing for your efforts.

  • pagansister

    As long as there was a doctor on call, perhaps a mid-wife could do the job as well as a physician.

    • Tim Jones

      Well, “perhaps”… that’s good enough, I guess!
      No need to fret. You never know, women! They *might* be just as good as a doctor. Let them try it out and they’ll get back to you with the health results in 10 or 20 years.

      • MaryMargaret

        I don’t think there would be many CNMW (certified nurse-midwives) who would be interested in becoming an abortionist. (These are nurses with advanced training to deliver babies.) And I can hardly imagine that mid-wives who are not also RN’s would be competent OR interested. Ordinary nurses? They can’t do surgeries or prescribe medications. I think that we will see that most trained health professionals are not then what? Specialized training like dental hygenists or surgical aides? I cannot see how this would be safe for the women at all.

      • pagansister

        Midwives deliver babies all over the world—many without the back up of a doctor in case of emergencies. I would trust myself to a midwife if that was who was performing the surgery, or a NP also. And in the case of the doctor at PP, (who is part of the law suit) a midwife (being a woman) IMO, would have done as the patient requested. I’m guessing the doctor was male at that clinic. Sorry Tim, I won’t be waiting 10-20 years for the results. Now, IMO again, those that don’t believe that any termination is necessary, and would have Roe V Wade retracted, would you find the local butcher acceptable as the substitute for a “real doctor” or midwife, or NP? Just wondered. PP performs more services than abortions—as I’m sure you know. Many women get check-ups there, contraception there, etc. I’m sure the Pro-lifers don’t want too many folks to remember those facts. :-)

        • FW Ken

          The issue is not whether any termination is necessary, but whether it’s the termination of a human life. And as I noted on the other thread, the local “butcher” was likely a doctor or midwife willing to do the procedure, but with a vested interest in not making a mess.

    • Oregon Catholic

      pagansister, don’t be so quick to drink the Planned Parenthood kool-aid. They do not have anyone’s interest at heart but their own. They are counting on the slavish devotion of pro-choicers to allow them to put a bad idea like this forth and not be questioned. And when bad outcomes do happen, they will whip up paranoia about limits to abortion ‘rights’ if anyone interferes to keep the choicers quiet.

  • pagansister

    Would I prefer a board certified doctor? Sure. But as I mentioned above, midwives are capable of delivering babies and with the proper training, I’m sure they can perform abortions, as can NP. I disagree that the only interest PP has in in themselves. Personally, I’m just glad they are there for women who need them—and not just for abortions. As with any medical facility/doctors offices, no 2 are exactly alike. In my experiences with doctors, there are some who have nurses/PA/NP that have zero bedside manners, and some who hire those that are pleasant to be around. Some doctors have no bedside manner, and I’ve stopped going to them after finding the same specialist who actually cares. So, I’m not drinking Kool aid.

    • Oregon Catholic

      pagansister, why are you talking about bedside manners? What on earth does that have to do with nurses performing surgery? You should be worried about competency and training. As an advanced practice nurse myself I assure you that midwives and NPs are NOT given any training which prepares them to do abortions. NPs are not even allowed to remove a mole on your skin if it involves cutting. There is absolutely NO surgical training provided to nurses regardless of specialty. I have no idea who is going to train nurses to do abortions. Maybe it will be like the bad joke about inadequate medical training: See one, do one, teach one.

      • MaryMargaret

        She is not being rational. As you say, NP’s do NOT perform surgery. The idea is to pretend that vacuuming out a fetus is not a surgery. Or even, a later term abortion will be re-defined to not be surgery. I think that the reality is that they want to redefine abortion as a non-invasive procedure. I still do not think that most of those who are trained to care for mothers and babies as they are being born, will be interested in aborting fetuses. Realistically, most medical professionals are interested in saving lives, not taking them. And that they will, therfore, find a new definition of a “medical professional”.

        • pagansister

          See below, MaryMargaret. My response to OC may clear up the “not rational” statements I made. Or not.

      • pagansister

        Well, as a nurse yourself, you would know much more than I would, of course. I was only a teacher. I suspect that NP and midwives could be trained to do the procedure, should they want to learn. Not saying that they would want to, but some might. Doctors could train nurses, yes? As to bedside manners, I was trying to point out (badly perhaps) that the atmosphere in different medical facilities are not all alike, mostly due to the personalities of the medical staff. In some cases, referring to the legal case being brought against PP, IF a midwife (trained of course) had be in charge of her termination, maybe she would have stopped at the woman’s request—because she was a woman. My logic here is probably not the best—-:-)

        • Sus

          An abortion is surgery. Delivering a baby isn’t surgery unless it’s delivered via c-section. I question all clinics outside hospitals. Lots of cosmetic surgery is done in clinics. I think it’s insane as a patient. I had surgery last year and the hospital people tried to make me sign a consent form to let a nurse anesthetist put me out. I refused. I understand cost and all that but I want board certified medical doctors if I’m being knocked out and cut on!

          I bet Oregon Catholic is absolutely correct in that doctors don’t want to do abortions. The answer isn’t letting non-doctors perform surgery!

          • MaryMargaret

   point was that an abortion is surgery. And Sus is correct, delivering a baby is NOT surgery unless it is delivered via c-section. Also, unless I have some information to the contrary, most nurses, nurse midwifes, etc have the same attitude as physicians..they do not want to make their living by performing abortions. What I am seeing, is allowing people without proper medical credentials to perform abortions is good..only because those who have those credentials do not choose to do so. Please define choice?

            • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

              Yes, surely most nurses, as much as most doctors, will not want to perform abortion. The point is that if you add those who do to the doctors who do and to other medical practitioners who are willing to, you are probably much closer to solving your personnel problem. I would add “and to Hell with women’s health and safety”, but then that has always been the case.

  • Jessica Renshaw

    In my book Compelling Interests, a thinly fictionalized history of abortion in America, I quoted pro-abortionists who wanted to train women to perform abortions on each other. They gathered in homes for this, like gathering for Tupperware parties. This was 10-15 years ago. I don’t know what has come of it.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Is it still available somewhere? I’d love to read a copy of it.

  • Jessica Renshaw

    P.S. I live in California. May God have mercy on our souls.

  • Sven2547

    a law that will allow midwives, nurses and other non-physicians to perform surgical abortions.

    Really? The article you linked doesn’t say “surgical” or “surgery” anywhere. It says

    the procedure has the novices using a tube to “empty” the uterus with a suction


    Brown also signed a bill allowing more nurses, midwives, and physician assistants to prescribe birth control pills, patches, and rings to women.

    What “surgical” procedures were you referring to?

    • hamiltonr

      Sven, you don’t have the first clue what you’re talking about.

    • FW Ken

      I had a (shudder) colonoscopy last summer, which I suspect might be equivalent to a vacuum abortion. They slide something into your body and clip polyps for biopsy if they find any. The procedure was done by an M.D, assisted by a nurse and nurse anethesist in a well-equipped facility. Do women deserve less?

  • FW Ken

    My first reaction to this news was to be appalled. But then I got to thinking that from what I read, the “doctors” attracted to this field are generally sociopaths who don’t care a whit for women’s health. If some midwives and nurse practitioners received proper training, you might get some practicitioners who actually care about women, rather than trying to make as much money as possible.

  • Manny

    How dispicable. I can’t believe you don’t even need a doctor in California for an abortion.

  • Roki

    We don’t want to force women into back alleys for abortions; we want to bring the back alleys to the women! /snark

  • markdotgooley

    Seems as if nowadays women exist to provide sex and that the least difficulty in getting an abortion will make them less willing to provide sex. Hence the qualifications of the abortionist and the conditions at abortion clinics hardly matter. My staunchly pro-abortion friends will deny this, but these laws are consistent with it. This is liberation of women, I guess.