A rally in support of a bill that could affect the safety of thousands of San Diegans was held Monday outside the office of state Sen. Juan Vargas (D-San Diego).
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Introduced by state Sen. Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego), SB 1338 aims to make it easier for women in California to have access to abortion services.
Chanting "barriers to access have to go," supporters of the bill gathered at Vargas' Chula Vista office in an effort to urge him to support the bill. The rally comes days after Planned Parenthood's radio ads targeting Vargas urged listeners to contact the senator, saying, "We voted for him. Now we need him to go to work for us."
Vargas sits on the Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee that is set to look at the bill Thursday. His vote could be a key factor.
"We urge Senator Vargas to do right by the women of California and remove this barrier to health care," said Jennifer Coburn, representative for Planned Parenthood Action Fund of the Pacific Southwest.
The bill specifies that an estimated 24,000 trained nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives and physician assistants in California could provide -- given proper training -- non-surgical, first-trimester abortions.
However, opponents of the bill question the safety of abortions without doctors, and some say there are more pressing issues such as jobs.
Republican Assemblyman Brian Jones blasted the bill when it was introduced in February, and he said none of his constituents have ever said abortions are hard to get.
Planned Parenthood says half of California's counties, including Imperial County, have no abortion provider.
"Women in California have the right to choose, but that right is meaningless unless they can access that right," said Coburn.
The bill is based on a nearly five-year UC San Francisco pilot project that found no statistical difference in health risk between non-physician and physician-performed abortions.
Vargas was in Sacramento during the rally and did not respond to requests for comment. He said he's personally opposed to abortion but has publicly supported women's reproductive rights.
The bill will need to get through the Public Safety Committee on Tuesday before it can go to the committee Vargas sits on.
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