I really, really like the headline at MSNBC for Irin Carmon’s report on the new California law allowing non-physicians to perform certain low-risk first-trimester abortions: “California moves to prevent more Gosnells.”
As you probably know, antichoicers have been justifying state-level abortion provider restrictions as a reaction to the notorious case of a Philadelphia physician named Kermitt Gosnell who performed illegal third-trimester abortions and committed infanticide, and was ultimately convicted on three counts of murder. The new restrictions, of course, are rarely if ever confined to late-term abortions (they usually involve “health and safety” regulations that shut down abortion providers altogether), and most serious antichoicers don’t really consider late-term abortions, or even infanticide, as morally worse than the use of an IUD. But it makes for good agitprop on the long road to a total abortion ban.
The bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown yesterday, by contrast, expands the number of providers who can perform safe first-trimester abortions that don’t involve surgery, as Carmon reports:
The Early Access to Abortion Bill will enable trained nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, and physician assistants to perform first-trimester abortions by vacuum aspiration. It’s the logic of cause and effect: If you make it easier to access an abortion, earlier, and from a legitimate provider, there will be fewer desperate customers turning to unsafe providers.
Nearly one third of women will have an abortion before the age of 45, but the number of providers is at best stagnant and in many places diminishing. In California, the country’s most populous state, almost half of women live in a county without an abortion provider. Nationally, the number of counties without an abortion provider is 87%-where a third of American women live….
Women who went to Gosnell, sometimes repeatedly and usually without complaint, plainly felt they had no other choice. They were predominately low-income and women of color-the same groups that will be the likeliest to benefit from California’s law, since research shows that they are more likely to see nurse practitioners or physician assistants than obstetricians and gynecologists.
Some women also ended up at Gosnell’s clinic because they were too far along for another provider or for Pennsylvania’s legal limit. There is some research indicating that some of the later abortions that politicians like to rail against are preventable-if women were able to access abortion earlier. According to the University of San Francisco’s Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (with which Weitz is affiliated), a 2006 study found that 58% of women having abortions “reported that they would have liked to have had the abortion earlier. The most common reasons for delay were that it took a long time to make arrangements (59%).” A separate study, from 2008, “found that inaccurate referrals, difficulty finding an appropriate provider and the time needed to collect the money all delayed women’s abortions.” Earlier abortions are cheaper and have lower risks of complications.
It’s all kind of self-evidentially logical unless you are just shedding crocodile tears over late-term abortions and the women who have them, and are really just using cases like Gosnell’s to create a pretext for further restricting the availability of all abortion services. So Brown and the California legislature not only passed good legislation that makes the right to choose more of a reality for many citizens of the state; they’ve also directed a large spotlight onto antichoice dishonesty about “health and safety” and late-term abortions.
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