July 26, 2013 — The North Carolina Senate on Thursday passed a wide-ranging antiabortion-rights measure (SB 353) originally penned by the state House, the Raleigh News & Observer reports. The bill now heads to Gov. Pat McCrory (R), who has indicated that he will sign the House-drafted legislation (Jarvis, Raleigh News & Observer, 7/25).
The legislation would allow the state's Department of Health and Human Services to "apply any requirement" for ambulatory surgical centers to abortion clinics, as long as the regulations do not impede access to abortion. It also would require a physician to be present while the first drug used in a medication abortion is administered and would ban abortions based on the sex of the fetus (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/17). In addition, the measure would allow any health provider -- rather than just nurses and doctors -- to opt out of participating in abortions and prohibit insurance plans offered through cities, counties and through the state health insurance marketplaces under the Affordable Care Act from offering abortion coverage.
North Carolina HHS Secretary Aldona Wos said that existing clinic regulations have not been updated since the mid-1990s and that state regulators can examine a clinic only every three to five years (Dalesio, AP/Raleigh News & Observer, 7/25).
According to the Observer, the legislation could potentially force almost all of the state's 16 abortion clinics to shut down; only one clinic currently meets ambulatory surgical center standards.
Supporters, Opponents Comment
Republican supporters of the bill argue that it will better protect women's health and safety in light of the recent Kermit Gosnell trial and recent closures of clinics in North Carolina. State Sen. Thom Goolsby (R) said, "In light of the multiple abortion clinics closed in our state and in Philadelphia -- what's the matter with a little bit of reason?"
However, opponents contend that the clinic closures indicate the state is adequately monitoring abortion facilities and accuse supporters of having political rather than health motivations. State Sen. Angela Bryant (D) explained, "It is important to us that you know we are not buying this disguise. Your agenda is clear -- there is nothing in this bill that helps protect the rights of women's health care" (Raleigh News & Observer, 7/25).
Reproductive Rights Groups Urge McCrory To Veto Bill
Groups that support abortion-rights are urging McCrory to veto the legislation, citing his campaign promise to not sign any legislation that would impose additional abortion restrictions in the state (AP/New York Times, 7/25).
McCrory previously said he would not sign the Senate's original version of the bill because it would have imposed undue abortion restrictions rather than acceptable health safeguards. However, he said he likely would sign the House version of the bill, noting that it satisfies the safety concerns of his administration's medical professionals without further restricting abortion access (Raleigh News & Observer, 7/25).
Suzanne Buckley -- executive director for NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina -- said, "[McCrory] made a campaign promise to voters back in October that he would not support further restrictions on access to safe and legal abortion care in our state, and we are going to hold him to his word" (AP/Raleigh News & Observer, 7/25). Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union also called on McCrory to veto the legislation. According to the News & Observer, the abortion-rights groups submitted petitions to the governor containing more than 35,000 signatures from state residents opposed to the measure.
Separately, a group of a dozen city and county officials also submitted a letter to McCrory voicing disapproval for the bill (Raleigh News & Observer, 7/25).