LOS ANGELES - Opponents of two recently signed bills related to abortion have until Jan. 7 to submit enough valid signatures to qualify referendums attempting to overturn them.
One proposed referendum challenges AB 154, which allows nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives and physicians assistants with special training to perform abortion by aspiration.
The other challenges AB 980 which repealed sections of the California Building Standards Code that treat primary care clinics differently if abortions are performed there.
When Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 154 into law Oct. 9, the Most Rev. Gerald Wilkerson, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and president of the California Catholic Conference, said it would ``effectively create a two-tier health system.''
``Physician assistants, nurse practitioners and nurse-midwives -- with eight weeks training -- can now perform first trimester abortions in primary care clinics not designed for surgery,'' Wilkerson said. ``Most of their clients will be women and girls who are poor, whereas women and girls with means will seek out physicians with surgical skills and hospital admitting privileges for their abortions.
"The often repeated mantra of those supporting abortion rights is that abortions ought to be safe, legal and rare. With this change in California's law, abortions are merely legal, no longer safe and rare.''
The law's author, Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, said it would ``ensure that no woman has to travel excessively long distances or wait for long periods in order to obtain an early abortion.''
Atkins cited a recent study conducted by the University of California San Francisco and published in the American Journal of Public Health that found that trained nurse practitioners, nurse-midwives and physician assistants can safely provide early abortions and women appreciate receiving care in their communities.
Backers of the proposed referendums received permission Thursday from Secretary of State Debra Bowen to begin gathering signatures.
Valid signatures from 504,760 registered voters -- 5 percent of the total votes cast for governor in the 2010 general election -- must be submitted by Jan. 7 to qualify each referendum for the November 2014 ballot.