Who May Provide Abortions

Who May Provide Abortions in California

Aspiration Abortion:  Physicians and other clinicians who hold “a valid, unrevoked, and unsuspended license or certificate … that authorizes him or her to perform the functions necessary for an abortion by medication or aspiration techniques.” (i.e. nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives, and physician assistants) are lawfully authorized to perform “nonsurgical abortions” in California.[1]

Surgical Abortion:  A “surgical abortion” may only be performed by a person with “a valid, unrevoked, and unsuspended license to practice as a physician and surgeon”[2] or by a clinician “if he or she performs an abortion by . . . aspiration techniques in the first trimester of pregnancy” and “has a valid unrevoked, and unsuspended license or certificate obtained in accordance with the Nursing Practice Act . . . or the Physician Assistant Practice Act.” [3] A certified nurse practitioner or certified nurse-midwife must complete training recognized by the Board of Registered Nursing. [4] Additionally, nurse practitioners and nurse-midwives must adhere to standardized developed in compliance with §2725(c), and he or she must achieve clinical competency. [5] A physician assistant must “complete training either through training programs approved by the board . . . or by training to perform medical services which augment his or her current areas of competency[.]” [6] Additionally, to be authorized to perform an abortion, physician assistants must comply with protocols developed in compliance with §3502. [7]


[1]  Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code 2253 (2014).

[2]   Id. § 2253(b)(1).  A note on California’s Health Workforce Pilot Project #171: On March 31, 2007, the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (“OSHPD”) approved Health Workforce Pilot Project (“HWPP”) #171, sponsored by the University of California, San Francisco. Nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives, and physician assistants participating in HWPP #171 may provide first-trimester aspiration abortion under a legal waiver of the following provisions: (1) section 2253 of California Business and Professions Code, (2) section 75043 of title 22 of the California Code of Regulations, and (3) section 1399.541 of title 16 of the California Code of Regulations. This waiver applies only to identified health care providers working at demonstration sites participating in HWPP #171 for the duration of the project.

[3]  Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code §2725.4(a) (2014).

[4]  The standardized procedures specify the following:

  • The extent of supervision by a physician and surgeon with relevant training and expertise.
  • Procedures for transferring patients to the care of the physician and surgeon or a hospital.
  • Procedures for obtaining assistance and consultation from a physician and surgeon.
  • Procedures for providing emergency care until physician assistance and consultation are available.
  • The method of periodic review of the provisions of the standardized procedures.

These 5 standardized procedures listed above also apply to physician assistants under Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code §3502.4(b).

[5]Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code §§2725.4(b),  2725.4(c) (2014).

[6] Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code §3502.4(a) (2014).

[7] Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code §3502.4(b)(1) – (5) (2014). These procedures are the same as those listed above for nurse practitioners and nurse-midwives.