02/28/2012 07:44 pm ET Updated Feb 28, 2012

California Abortion Bill SB 1501 Would Allow Procedure To Be Performed By Nurses & Midwives

"Silvia" has four children (ages 16, 12, 4 and 3) and lives in California's Central Valley. When she found herself pregnant with a fifth child, she knew she had to have an abortion.

"I must do this to be fair to my other children," she said to a staffer at ACCESS Women's Health Justice. "I just cannot support and care for another child because my other children need me and I work nights to support us."

But, as ACCESS executive director Ana Rodriguez describes in a January op-ed for The Sacramento Bee, there were too many hurdles in Silvia's way to get the care she wanted. Because there was no safe, legal abortion provider in her area of the Central Valley, she had to find childcare, pay for bus fare to and from San Francisco, and find a place to stay in the city to recuperate for a night before heading back home.

State Sen. Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego) told Silvia's story in a Tuesday press release to explain why she introduced bill SB 1501 [PDF]. If passed, the bill would allow licensed nurse practitioners, physician assistants and nurse midwives to perform aspiration abortions on women in their first trimester. Currently, only doctors and surgeons are authorized to perform that type of abortion.

The procedure, also known as "manual vacuum aspiration abortion," involves passing a small tube into the uterus. The tube is attached to a pump that vacuums fetal tissue away from the uterus. Aspiration can only be performed during the first trimester of pregnancy.

The statement from Sen. Kehoe's office also went on to explain that more than half of California's counties have no accessible abortion provider because of the current restrictions. "SB 1501 would ensure that women have access to safe and early abortion services from local providers they know and trust," said Sen. Kehoe.

Opponents to her bill reacted sharply soon after she introduced it. Camille Giglio, a lobbyist for California Right-to-Life, said to the Los Angeles Times, "When do they let the janitor do it? ... They're totally casting aside the safety of the woman."

Santee-based Assemblyman Brian Jones released this statement to Santee Patch with a similar reaction. "My immediate response when I heard about this bill was visceral -- I felt like I was kicked in the gut," Jones said. "I shouldn't be shocked at the moral failure this represents, but I fear what it says about our society that we are actually looking for more ways to abort babies."

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, the leaders of California's two legislative houses, are co-authors of the bill. Other co-authors include San Francisco assemblymember Tom Ammiano, Sen. Elaine Alquist of Silicon Valley, and assemblymember Betsy Butler and Sen. Kevin de León, both representing parts of Los Angeles County.

The bill is co-sponsored by the ACCESS Women’s Health Justice, American Civil Liberties Union of California, NARAL Pro-Choice California and Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that licensed nurses would be authorized to perform abortions if the bill passes. In fact, licensed nurse practitioners would be authorized to perform the procedure. We regret the error.