Sometimes, I wonder if this is 2012 or 1952.

All across the country, conservatives are trying to roll back the clock on birth control. This goes way beyond opposition to abortion. I'm talking about aggressive efforts to restrict women's access to the very contraceptives that prevent unplanned pregnancies. Republicans in Congress even tried unsuccessfully to pass an amendment to the Obama health care plan that would have allowed employers to refuse to provide birth control coverage to women -- on religious and moral grounds. Some Republicans actually compared the provision requiring employers to provide contraception coverage -- which took effect Aug. 1 -- to Pearl Harbor and 9/11.

I wish I were kidding.

"I want you to remember Aug. 1, 2012, the attack on our religious freedom," Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa) announced at a news conference. "That is a day that will live in infamy, along with those other dates."

What I find most bizarre is the same people who are so adamant against birth control are the very ones so rabidly anti-abortion.

Against this backdrop of insanity, California thankfully is one state where the right wing has not succeeded in dismantling family planning services. Last month, the California legislature passed the "Access to Birth Control Bill." It's goal is to reduce long wait times at community health clinics where, because of physician shortages, women don't have easy access to contraceptives.

The bill was introduced by Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell from Culver City. It would change state law to authorize registered nurses in community clinics to dispense hormonal contraceptives according to specific medical protocols. These include the pill, patch, shot and ring.

At present, only doctors, nurse practitioners and certified nurse midwives, are legally able to do so.

The bill is supported by Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, the California Family Health Council and American Nurses Association-California.

Yet the California Nurses Association has opposed it. On its website, the powerful nurses union calls the bill "a major encroachment on nurse practitioners practice and unsafe expansion of registered nurses' scope of practice."

Yet the union's underlying beef seems to be less about patient safety and more a concern that lower paid registered nurses would be used to dispense the contraceptives.

In the Central Valley and other rural areas, thousands of women who don't have private insurance or are unemployed often have to wait weeks for an appointment to get contraceptives. It's a pretty safe bet that when a teen or woman goes to a health clinic to get birth control, she is either sexually active or planning to be so very soon.

What do you think happens when they are told, "sorry, no room for you today, you'll have to come back later?"

Will they just "say no" and practice abstinence? Or will they be they be more likely to have an unplanned pregnancy which can then lead to an abortion?

This has nothing to do with abortion. I am not talking about women who are already pregnant and seeking to terminate a pregnancy, but about those who are trying to do the responsible thing and take precautions.

Allowing R. N. s to dispense birth control makes perfect sense.

It would free up physicians to provide more advanced care in overcrowded community clinics where people have to wait in long lines to see a doctor.

Regardless of what some would have one believe, hormonal contraceptives have been used widely and safely for decades. The World Health Organization, Planned Parenthood and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have developed guidelines for their use based on a patient's medical history and other risk factors.

R. N. s are already trained to assess patients and review their medical histories. In the rare cases where a patient has more complicated health issues, she could be referred to a physician or nurse practitioner for further evaluation.

The Access to Birth Control bill is on Gov. Jerry Brown's desk. He should sign it without further delay.

Tammerlin Drummond is a columnist for the Bay Area News Group. Her column runs Tuesday and Sunday. Contact her at tdrummond@bayareanewsgroup.com or follow her at Twitter.com/Tammerlin