Many activists and health care providers are familiar with their political representatives and the processes of their state government. Surprisingly, however, few have an understanding of who serves on their state’s regulatory boards, how members are appointed, the boards’ decisionmaking procedures, or how these boards can influence the practice of abortion by APCs. State health professional politics can be as contentious as abortion politics which often includes the relationships between licensing boards and professional organizations. Understanding regulatory board functions as well as the roles of the board members is essential to advocating for policies and change around scope of practice, and is a critical component of making sure that clinicians who are providing or plan to provide abortion care have full understanding of what could happen if their practice is challenged.

Although issues tend to come and go, often the same people remain in leadership positions. Thus, learning to work with the people on the state regulatory boards makes a lot of sense. To develop good relationships, APCs should create strategies to increase the opportunities for communication, education, and cooperation. Traditionally, regulatory boards are underfunded, understaffed, and hassled by many licensure-driven tasks. Many boards have great latitude in how they draft regulatory language that practitioners may have to live with for a long time. Many complex issues are currently before them that will affect CNM, NP or PA practice in the future. Here are some proactive approaches for clinicians and their professional organizations who want to advocate for scope of practice changes generally and/or advance abortion practice in particular. See also Figure IV.3 on “getting to know your state regulatory board” strategies.

Individual clinicians as members of their state professional organizations will have the most influence in working with their respective licensing boards. Leaders of the professional associations are likely to be the most knowledgeable about Board processes and in many cases are active members of licensing board committees or are involved in making recommendations for regulatory board appointments to the state legislature or governor. See Section III.G for how professional organizations can effectively work with state regulatory boards.

In doing this kind of research, preparation and relationship-building, individual clinicians (as members of their professional organizations) and their allies are not only able to move forward with confidence in providing abortion care, but they also show members of the regulatory board that they are committed to abortion care as a scope of practice issue and not just a political hot potato or headline-grabber. Too often, regulatory boards have been ignored by activist groups who favor the legislative process, and it takes a shift in perspective for advocates to begin working hand in hand with healthcare providers toward goals that are truly pro-professional and pro-patient. Building relationships, educating members of the regulatory board about the barriers to access and the safety of abortion, offering oneself up as a resource when questions arise, and showing interest in the goals of the regulatory board and colleagues in various fields can go a long way toward building goodwill and open lines of communication prior to meeting over a challenge, when emotions may run high.


Getting to Know Your State’s Professional Regulatory Boards