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Hastings Law Journal

Abstract

Women in the United States are currently facing a shortage of medical practitioners who perform legal abortions, which interferes with women's right to have safe, legal abortions. This Note proposes authorizing physician assistants to perform low risk, first trimester abortions to increase the provider pool. The Note examines the historical reasons that justified proscribing abortions performed by non-physicians and concludes that because of improved medical education the proscription is no longer justified. Many private offices, family planning clinics, and Health Maintenance Organizations depend on physician assistants to provide the bulk of services once provided exclusively by physicians. Women's health clinics are increasingly relying on physician assistants to perform all obstetric and gynecological services, with the exception of abortions. The author then explores the experiences of Vermont, New York, and Montana in order to demonstrate three statutory approaches to legalizing abortions by physician assistants. Finally, the author proposes an alternative approach: using state constitutions as a method to invalidate state physician-only legislation.

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