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Senate Panel Moves Abortion Clinic Bill

The Senate Committee on Appropriations this week passed a bill that would change building code requirements on health clinics that offer abortion services.

AB 980 by Assembly member Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) would bring licensing and building standards into line with all other primary care clinic standards, Pan said at Monday’s hearing.

“This bill will repeal unequal and burdensome building requirements on clinics that provide abortions,” Pan said.

Brianna Pittman, legislative advocate for Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, said the bill fixes outmoded laws.

“There are restrictions on space, personnel and equipment” that other clinics don’t have, Pittman said. “Some of these regulations are out of date with current law and accepted medical standards.”

The administrative changes come with minimal cost to the state, Pan said. But a long line of opponents disagreed, sometimes vehemently.

The chair of Appropriations, Sen. Kevin De León (D-Los Angeles) had to interrupt the proceedings several times to ask opponents to meet time limits, remain civil and focus on the fiscal aspects of the bill, rather than the emotionally charged subject of abortion.

Gneal Trevethan, part of a Sacramento-based group called Coalition for Women and Children, had a lot to say about the possible fiscal impact of the bill.

“We believe AB 980 will create immediate costs, and significant cost to the state,” she said. “The immediate cost when the Department of Public Health spends a year or more repealing or revising [current] regulations. These regulations are not insignificant.”

She said there would be a long-term Medi-Cal cost to the state if the bill results in more abortions. 

Committee opposition came from the two Republican members. “Regardless of one’s belief on this issue,” said Sen. Mimi Walters (R-Irvine), “by lowering [building] standards it does put women’s health at risk. That’s the problem.”

“Why would you lower standards?” asked Sen. Ted Gaines (R-Rocklin). “These are surgical facilities, this is not a doctor’s visit, I think it puts the state at risk … it opens up the state to litigation.”

Pan said standards are being maintained. “This bill creates parity, that’s all,” Pan said. “We are not lowering standards. We are basically applying the same standards [of other clinics] across the board.”

The measure passed Appropriations on a 5-2 vote, and now heads to the Senate floor.

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