California Legislature Authorizing Midwives, Other Non-Doctors, to Perform Abortions

The California Senate passed a bill September 6 that would make it legal for non-physician medical professionals such as midwives to perform abortions under a statewide training program. The measure now awaits Democratic Governor Jerry Brown’s signature. (Gov. Brown pictured to the left of the state seal, Sen. Christine Kehoe to the right.)

According to, the bill (S.B. 623), introduced by Democratic State Senator Christine Kehoe, “extends a program run by the University of California at San Francisco [UCSF], in which nurse practitioners, midwives, and doctors’ assistants are trained to perform abortions without any further training in medicine. Kehoe argues the bill is necessary because there aren’t enough doctors performing abortions in California.”

The Sacramento Bee reported that the bill extends a UCSF program, begun in 2007, that “evaluates the safety and effectiveness of allowing certain non-doctor medical providers to provide abortions…. The goal is to increase access to the procedure in parts of the state where doctors are scarce.” Kehoe noted that the program is “an existing study that’s been extended several times, [and] this is an additional extension. Otherwise the study would cease at the end of this month and the practitioners participating in the city would no longer be able to perform this procedure.”

The Life Legal Defense Foundation (LLDF), a California-based pro-life group that has been pressuring the UCSF for its records on the controversial program, explained that the measure was hidden in an unrelated bill at the end of the state’s legislative session after previous attempts to pass it had failed. “This bill was originally created to regulate boat paint,” Dana Cody, LLDF’s executive director, said of the bill carrying the abortion measure. “Now it’s regulating and destroying human lives.”

The Bee noted that several Republican lawmakers criticized the bill, hidden in the boat paint measure, as a last-minute “gut and amend” bill. “I don’t understand the germaneness” of boat paint and training for abortions, confessed Republican State Senator Bob Dutton, one of the bill’s opponents. “I’m questioning whether this is even appropriate to be brought up.”

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