Brown signs bill expanding birth-control access

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill into law today that makes it easier for women to obtain birth control – a bill that created some strange bedfellows, pun intended.

Assembly Bill 2348 by Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, lets registered nurses dispense and administer hormonal contraceptives under a standardized procedure, or upon an order by a certified nurse-midwife, a nurse practitioner or a physician assistant in certain clinic settings. Hormonal contraceptives include birth control pills, “morning-after” pills, vaginal rings and patches, and so on.

“At a time when some seek to turn back the clock and restrict women’s health choices, California is expanding access to birth control and reaffirming every woman’s basic Constitutional rights,” Brown – who signed the bill Saturday morning at Planned Parenthood Los Angeles’ headquarters – said in a news release.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President and CEO Cecile Richards said California “has long served as a national model for enacting proactive public policy that reduces rates of unintended pregnancy and expands access to comprehensive reproductive health care services. By enacting this bill, California is, once again, setting an example of national leadership at a critical time when access to health care is under attack.”

Planned Parenthood had sponsored this bill along with the California Family Health Council, where President and CEO Julie Rabinovitz applauded Brown “for continuing California’s long-standing history of breaking down barriers to birth control access and helping women across the state reduce their risk of unintended pregnancy. With his signature, the Governor also took action to address provider shortages statewide by allowing RNs to work to the full extent of their scope and training. This is especially important in our changing health care landscape.”

AB 2348 bill had been opposed by the California Right to Life Committee and the California Catholic Conference, which is the public policy arm of the state’s bishops.

“I propose that the problem is not the lack of access to contraceptives but their ready access — and this bill will allow even more medical personnel to hand them out,” Carol Hogan, the conference’s pastoral projects and communications director, wrote in July.

Reliable information is lacking on the effects of long-term use of hormonal contraceptives, Hogan wrote, and “their easy access may actually encourage sexual activity — possibly producing yet more problems. There are also studies showing emotional damage to women who engage in sexual activity at an early age and/or outside of a marital commitment.”

“In keeping with society’s move to honor nature, rather than handing out hormonal contraceptives on every street corner, perhaps we ought to educate our young women to honor their natural bodies,” she wrote.

But the bill also had been opposed by the politically powerful California Nurses Association/National Nurses United.

“CNA supports the expansion of primary health services for women with a single standard of high quality care for everyone,” the union blogged this spring. “However, this bill encroaches on the practice of nurse practitioners in an effort by employers to use lower paid registered nurses to provide these family planning services.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.