SACRAMENTO (Reuters) - California's Democratic governor signed a law on Wednesday that will allow nurses and midwives to perform some abortions, a move supporters hope will influence the national debate on abortion even as other states are tightening the rules.
Under the law, the nation's most populous state would allow nurse-practitioners, nurse-midwives and physician assistants to perform a procedure known as aspiration, which uses suction to dislodge an embryo from the uterine wall during the first few weeks of pregnancy.
Four other states - Oregon, Montana, Vermont and New Hampshire - allow non-physicians to perform early-stage abortions, but California is the first to codify the practice in law.
The law, the progress of which has been closely followed by activists on both sides of the abortion debate, comes as a handful of states, primarily in the country's south and middle, have passed or enacted laws restricting abortion.
Some of those measures appeared designed to stand as challenges to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal.