February 2, 2015 — North Carolina abortion-rights groups and their legislative allies are urging antiabortion-rights state lawmakers to not make ideologically driven changes to clinic regulations proposed by Gov. Pat McCrory's (R) administration, the AP/Winston-Salem Journal reports (AP/Winston Salem Journal, 1/29).
The rules were developed under a 2013 law (SL 2013-366) requiring the state Department of Health and Human Services to assess regulations for abortion providers and propose revised measures relating to safety, the Fayetteville Observer reports (Woolverton, Fayetteville Observer, 1/29). The proposed changes were announced in December, and the period for public comment closed Jan. 30 (Walton, Asheville Citizen-Times, 1/30).
Response to Proposal
Abortion-rights supporters opposed the underlying law out of concern that it would result in onerous restrictions that could force clinics to close. However, Democratic state lawmakers and abortion-rights groups said at a press conference last week that the state appears to have taken medical facts and patient safety into account and developed reasonable rules.
Planned Parenthood provided input on the rules (AP/Winston Salem Journal, 1/29). Under the proposal, clinics would be required to have a defibrillator on site, a 24-hour phone line to handle calls, quality assurance committees and emergency-transfer agreements with area hospitals.
State Rep. Rick Glazier (D) said he was "pleasantly surprised and happy at the process [DHHS] used" to create the rules (Campbell, Raleigh News & Observer, 1/29).
Obstetrician Matthew Zerden, who works with University of North Carolina hospitals, said, "It appears that the right balance was struck between protecting access to a critical reproductive health care service and overseeing clinic safety" (AP/Winston Salem Journal, 1/29).
State Rep. Susan Fisher (D) noted that there are already many barriers to abortion in North Carolina. Currently, there is no abortion provider in the western part of the state (Asheville Citizen-Times, 1/30).
Conservative lawmakers have said the proposed regulations do not go far enough or follow the intent of the law. Two antiabortion-rights Republican lawmakers said on Thursday that they are considering proposing additional regulations but that they would probably be incremental revisions, as changes at this point would set back the implementation process, according to the AP/Journal (AP/Winston Salem Journal, 1/29).
Abortion-rights supporters in the state Legislature said they would oppose any efforts to add additional restrictions, if they arise. "It is time for the legislature to stay in its own lane and let the medical professionals do their jobs," Glazier said (Raleigh News & Observer, 1/29).