Protesters in front of Virginia State Capitol in Richmond demonstrate against antiabortion legislation. (Bob Brown – AP)

Our colleague Juliet Eilperin reports:

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed legislation Wednesday expanding access to a specific early abortion procedure, by allowing nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives and physician assistants to perform it during the first trimester of pregnancy.

The procedure, known as an aspiration abortion, removes a fetus by using a suction tube. Four other states — Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon and Vermont — allow nurse practitioners to conduct the procedure. The move to expand abortion access defies a national trend, as states from North Carolina to Wisconsin and Texas have enacted laws this year limiting when, where and how abortions can be conducted.

Samara Azam-Yu, executive director of ACCESS Women’s Health Justice, welcomed the law’s enactment.

“Thousands of women call our Healthline because they need help getting access to abortion care and are forced to travel hundreds of miles when they can’t find it in their communities,” she said in a statement. “We’re proud that California is leading the nation to increase the availability and affordability of abortion. This isn’t just a symbolic bill. While we’re a progressive state, over half the counties don’t have abortion providers. And even in urban areas there are provider shortages and women can have delays.”

But Ashley Mcguire, a senior fellow at The Catholic Association, questioned why California would expand the number of abortion providers in the state.

“Why would Governor Brown put the safety of more women in jeopardy by allowing people who are not doctors to do abortions?” she asked. “Americans want more protections for women and babies, not less.”