On October 9, Gov. Brown signed a new California law – AB 154 – that will allow physician assistants, nurse practitioners and certified nurse-midwives to provide first trimester abortions using the most-common method.
I believe that this law will enable more women and girls to have better access to family health services. Many family clinics are staffed largely by physician assistants and/or nurse practitioners, with few doctors. As such, many of the services provided to users of the facilities, excepting major surgeries, are performed by these medical professionals.
Of course, any discussion about abortion highlights the importance of the use of, and access to, contraception. Family planning is essential for healthy mothers and babies, and is key to reducing population growth. It’s particularly important to discuss contraception among teens. Adolescent pregnancy interrupts education, and most teens are not prepared for motherhood.
In 2011 a worldwide survey of 6,026 young people, age 15 to 25, conducted in conjunction with the Third Annual World Contraception Day, revealed some alarming facts. Youth lack information about contraception, and most have little access to it, even while the majority were sexually active. In the United States, 82 percent were sexually active, 80 percent in Russia, 75 percent in Chile, 66 percent in Sweden and 61 percent in Kenya (Kenya has one of the highest population growth rates in Africa).
So there’s a lot of unprotected sex among youth, the survey found. Interviewees said they did not use contraception for a variety of reasons, including not having contraception available at the time. “It’s not cool!” was one excuse for not using contraception. Other reasons given for not using contraception were reluctance to talk with a health care provider due to embarrassment, “drunk and forgot,” or just didn’t like it.
In the United States, nearly half of all pregnancies are unplanned. Among teens age 15 to 19, there were nearly 368,000 births in 2010. Population stabilization in the United States and the world continues to be a terribly serious problem. It behooves everyone to encourage more family planning services globally and locally. So, thank Gov. Brown for signing AB 154, which will give more California girls and women reproductive health counseling and services than before.