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LOS ANGELES - Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation today allowing registered nurses to dispense birth control in clinics, depicting California as a place above recent controversies nationally about contraception.

"Instead of shrinking back and trying to take away women's health care services or birth control, we're empowering women, and we do it proudly," Brown said at a Planned Parenthood headquarters here. "Today, we're realizing the dream that women have a right to control their own destiny, not with some guys in the Legislature who think they know better."

Supporters of Assembly Bill 2348, by Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, say it will improve access to birth control, especially in poor and rural areas, reducing unplanned pregnancies.

The legislation pitted non-union Planned Parenthood clinics and other health groups against the California Nurses Association. The influential nurses union, which has donated millions of dollars to Brown and his causes, had said the measure could result in poor women receiving lesser care.

"I would also just say as part of the chemistry of legislation, you'll find that allies become adversaries for certain bills," Brown said. "Generally speaking, the great family of progressive, thoughtful Democrats are on board, for the most part."

The bill signing came as debate continues nationally over an Obama administration policy requiring insurers to cover birth control for women.

Brown, speaking in the state's largest media market, criticized Republicans for their opposition to Mitchell's bill, while Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez lamented what he called a "fierce assault" on reproductive rights.

Pérez, D-Los Angeles, elicited groans when he offered as an example controversial remarks about rape last month by Republican U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin, a Missouri congressman.


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