By Carter Cordura
On September 27, 2022, Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 657 (Cooper) (Chapter 560, Statutes of 2022) into law. AB 657 adds Chapter 1.2 (commencing with section 870) of the Business and Profession Code which requires the Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) to expedite the licensure process for applicants who demonstrate they intend to provide abortions within the scope of practice of their license. BRN supports the bill and now needs to institute a rulemaking action to implement it.
AB 657 came largely in response to the Texas Legislature’s passage of SB 8, the Texas Heartbeat Act, and the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Org., 142 S. Ct. 2228 (2022). The Texas Heartbeat Act criminalizes abortion after approximately six weeks. Further, Dobbs declares that abortion is not a constitutional right. This overturns Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) and leaves the decision to ban abortion to the states. As a result, the Guttmacher Institute estimates that 1.4 million women may travel to California to seek care; this is a 2,923% increase.
To deal with this potential increase, AB 657 requires an expedition in the licensure process for applicants who intend to provide abortions. Notably, the Nursing Practice Act makes it a crime to perform an abortion without holding the proper certificate, which authorizes the holder to perform specified functions necessary for an abortion. Given that BRN regulates this licensure for nurses, rulemaking action is needed to implement the bill and make expedited licenses possible.
AB 657 does not change BRN’s existing licensure requirements; a nurse applying for expedited licensure still needs to meet all applicable statutory and regulatory requirements. Further, applicants need to provide a letter demonstrating and declaring their intention to perform abortions, a letter from an employer or health care entity indicating the applicant has accepted employment or entered a contract to provide abortions, the applicant’s starting date, the location where the applicant will provide abortions, and that the applicant is providing abortions within the scope of their license.
As of this writing, BRN has not yet offered any rulemaking to implement AB 657.