According to Justice Blackmun, “[T]he abortion decision and its effectuation must be left to the medical judgment of the pregnant woman’s attending physician.” Roe v. Wade (emphasis added). As pointed out by LLDF’s Legal Director, Katie Short, in the most recent edition of Lifeline, the Roe decision repeatedly stressed the centrality of the physician in not only the abortion procedure but also in the abortion decision-making process. Clothing the abortion decision in terms of “physician-administered medical care” tends to justify and elevate the choice into something more than a matter of convenience.
Ironically, this justification for abortion is being abandoned as abortion advocates seek to expand the pool of abortion providers. Indeed, the days of physician-performed abortions may be numbered. In California, AB 154 would allow non-physicians to perform abortions. The bill has been passed by both the Assembly and the Senate and awaits only Governor Brown’s signature to become law. (Read LLDF’s opposition to AB 154 here.)
The hypocrisy of the argument that abortion should be between “a woman and her doctor” has not been lost on observers. The LA Times carried an opinion piece pointing out the fact that non-physician abortion implicitly abandons several presuppositions of legal abortion, including the idea repeated by Hillary Clinton when campaigning in 2008 that abortion should be “safe legal and rare.” As Clinton put it, the decision was one for “a young woman, her family, her physician and pastor.” As Michael McGough astutely observes, “That quotation just doesn’t sound the same when you substitute ‘physician’s assistant’ or ‘nurse practitioner’ for ‘physician.’”
While this new trend in lawmaking exposes the lie that access to abortion has anything to do with true medical care for women, the tragedy lies in the untold women and children who will be the victims of the mad dash to take all obstacles—including the physician—out of the way.
Action Item: Contact Governor Jerry Brown and urge him to protect California’s women and children by vetoing AB 154.